Agriculture has historically provided for a very large portion of Afghanistan’s economy, but presently they have had trouble competing for a share in the international fresh fruit market. A war-torn, land locked country, Afghanistan is rebuilding trade ties with neighboring countries. Afghan traders have come up against many literal and figurative roadblocks in their efforts to find economic ways to ship Afghan fresh fruit to international markets. Traders compete for space on cargo planes to Dubai and India, but this is expensive, and often doesn’t provide enough space for the fresh fruit to make air cargo feasible or cost efficient.
Looking for alternatives, Roots of Peace saw that Afghanistan lacked the infrastructure for cold storage and refrigerated ground shipments for fresh fruits. Afghan traders and shipping companies needed access to cold storage units and refrigerated trucks (‘reefers’) to preserve produce during transit, and they needed a better understanding of how to transit via bordering country Pakistan, for the shipment to reach new markets via ground transportation. Roots of Peace succeeded in supporting traders on all three of these fronts, demonstrating how cold storage is key in maintaining the value of their crop. Fresh, intact grapes always bring in a higher market value.
Success was met on October 5th, 2011 when Roots of Peace assisted Afghan Focus Ltd with their first chilled grape shipment of 4.5 MT to Delhi, India via Karachi, Pakistan. Afghan traders and the Indian buyers saw the true value in the refrigerated trucks when the grapes arrived 100% intact and undamaged. The shipment should have taken 3-4 days but was delayed at customs, reaching Delhi in 9 days, yet the grapes where still ready for market due to the refrigerated truck. One year later, the Afghan Focus Company exported 166.3 MT of grapes in a follow-up shipment.
“The Indian commission agent Mr. Chamanlal says “I have not seen such great grapes from Afghanistan in 25 years. Today this gives me the good news that Afghani fruits are again going to gain their deserved position in the international market.”
Through Roots of Peace’s support and funding from USAID, Afghan traders can now send trucks through Karachi, Pakistan and then to the international markets of Dubai and India. Thanks to Roots of Peace assistance, Afghan farmers and traders have greater access to high value markets for table grapes and other fresh produce.