Afghan farmers appeal to US over barred exports to Pakistan
A group of Afghan business leaders at a virtual meeting with US embassy officials in Kabul has called for the opening of Pakistan’s routes to Afghanistan’s exports, especially fresh fruit, as they claimed that thousands of tons of the products have been left in storage over the last few months.
The entrepreneurs, who were mostly from southern provinces, said the government did not address their problem; therefore, they held the meeting with the US embassy officials to solve the issue, reported TOLOnews on Tuesday.
The businesspeople threatened to stop paying taxes in protest to what they called the government’s “inattention” to this matter.
Kandahar entrepreneurs said they accepted the government’s call to stop poppy cultivation and start farming fruit gardens, but sales of their produce cannot even cover expenses.
“Our economy is near to zero. The government is not paying attention. What should we do?” asked Sardar Mohammad, head of a union of fresh fruit and vegetable businesspeople in Kandahar.
“More than 30,000 to 40,000 tons of fruit has been left from the previous harvest season in storage,” said Abdul Ahad, head of the fruit exporters union in Kandahar.
“We will not pay taxes and will not complete customs documents. The government should leave us with Pakistan to do anything we do (for exporting our products),” said Sayed Yaqut Shah, an Afghan businessman.
The businessmen said that a portion of their harvested fruit has become rotten because it cannot be exported to Pakistan.
“If our problem is not addressed, we the businessmen will come together and will go to Torkham (crossing)… where we will not allow Pakistan’s exports into Afghanistan,” said Abdul Hafeez Rahmani, a dry fruit exporter.
According to officials from the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment, the US embassy officials vowed to address the problem.
“They have shared the issue with Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul and US’s embassy in Islamabad so that they can provide the grounds for opening Pakistan’s routes to Afghanistan’s exports,” said Sayed Zaman Hashemi, CEO of the chamber.
According to the US embassy in Kabul, the US Deputy Chief of Mission Karen Decker consulted with business leaders and the ACCI on how the US can support Afghan entrepreneurs.
“We applaud Afghan private sector efforts to grow the economy and provide jobs,” the embassy said in a tweet.