The harvest season, and export of fresh fruits and vegetables, is coming up but roadways to neighboring countries are closed, and air shipping has stopped, due to the coronavirus.
The union of fresh fruit and vegetable traders in Afghanistan warns that the country’s farmers and gardeners will suffer severely this year.
Although goods are being imported through various access points, exports are not allowed by land or air due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus from Afghanistan.
A related concern is that there are no facilities for preserving the produce in the event that the fruits and vegetables cannot be shipped while fresh. Fresh produce is a significant source of income for a large portion of Afghanistan’s citizens.
“Last year, despite the roads being open, we had similar problems. If the roads remain closed this year and quarantine continues, our exports will be reduced to zero, and all farmers, gardens and shopkeepers will suffer,” says Haji Akhtar Mohammad, head of the union for fresh fruit exporters.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation stated that they are working on a plan to address the problem for agriculture and farmers immediately.
“Medium-sized cold storage, centers for collecting and processing dried fruits and strengthening the private sector in order to process fresh fruit in the country are among the government’s plans this year,” says Akbar Rustami, a spokesman for the Ministry Agriculture and Irrigation.
The Chamber of Commerce and Investment stated that the country’s exports had increased by 11% recently--before the closure of the roads due to COVID-19--and now this upward trend has stopped.
“The target set by the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Investment for 2020 was over $1.5 billion, which is an unlikely target due to the outbreak of the coronavirus,” Amin Babak, head of public relations and press in the Chamber of Commerce and Investment, said.
Farmers who were forced to discard their unsold and unprocessed produce on the roads in certain parts of the country, especially in Farah province, last year, are facing a much more daunting challenge this year in terms of finding markets and transportation to those markets.