Border closures and drought threaten Afghan pomegranate harvest


Border closures in Pakistan, as well as an acute water supply shortage, are threatening the production and export of Afghanistan’s pomegranates, a major export of its southern province Kandahar.

The Kandahar pomegranate, renowned for its juiciness and vivid red colour, is in season from September to November. However, locals have bemoaned the drought plaguing their orchards, saying it has increased the cost of agricultural production as they have had to rely on water pumps to irrigate their crop.

Farmers also face a new problem as Pakistan has fenced off entry to ordinary Afghans, allegedly to stifle the passage of illegal aliens through the borders.

Haji Nani Agha, head of Kandahar’s Fresh Fruits Union, said: ‘We have 15,000 farm workers in this region who have been laid off because the trade has been paralysed and the fruit is rotting.’

He added: ‘The loss is three times worse than usual.’

Between 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes of pomegranates are exported through the Pakistan-Afghanistan border yearly. This year, only 4,490 tonnes have left Afghanistan, according to Abdul Baqi Beena from the provincial Chamber of Commerce.

He said: ‘These products are waiting to be sold, but the more they are delayed, the more their quality deteriorates and the more their sale value plummets.’