Afghan Pomegranate Pickers Jobless as Fruits Rot at Pakistan’s Shuttered Border

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Afghanistan‘s festive pomegranate season has begun, but this year thousands of tonnes of the juicy red fruit risk rotting on trucks blocked at Pakistan’s regularly shuttered border — leaving 1000’s of farm staff unemployed.

With its tart and crunchy, ruby-red seeds locked inside a leathery purple rind, the pomegranate is famend for its well being advantages, and is without doubt one of the most essential crops within the nation’s south.

But the fruit is ripening as Afghanistan finds itself engulfed in a mess of crises which have metastasised for the reason that Taliban seized management two months in the past.

“We have 15,000 farm staff on this area who’ve been laid off as a result of the commerce has been paralysed and the fruit is rotting,” Haji Nani Agha, who heads the Fresh Fruits Union in Kandahar, told AFP.

In the shade of pomegranate shrubs, the melon-sized fruits fill burlap bags and crates being loaded onto trucks soon to head towards the Spin Boldak border with Pakistan.

But there their voyage comes to a halt.

Islamabad has cut sales tax on imported fruits to zero in a bid to boost trade from its neighbour, but also tightened controls on ordinary Afghans trying to cross over, fearing illegal entries.

It has caused a tug-of-war between Pakistani authorities and Afghanistan’s new rulers, who have frequently closed the border in protest.

Exporters hoping to sell their wares have found themselves stuck for days and even weeks in scorching heat.

“It is a catastrophe for all of Afghanistan, because all of Afghan trade goes through this border,” Agha mentioned.

Usually, between 40,000 and 50,000 tonnes are exported throughout this border to Pakistan, and likewise on to India and the Gulf states every year.

But up to now, solely 4,490 tonnes have left the nation, in line with Abdul Baqi Beena of the Chamber of Commerce within the southern metropolis of Kandahar.

“These merchandise are ready to be offered, however the extra they’re delayed, the extra their high quality deteriorates and the extra their sale worth plummets,” he said.

Even before the dramatic power shift, Afghanistan’s agriculture sector had been hard-hit by drought and intense fighting in a number of provinces.

For years, the previous Western-backed Afghan governments and international donors tried to convince farmers to give up farming poppies for illegal opium production and instead grow fruit — such as pomegranates

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