After enduring thirty years of war, Afghanistan is faced with the begrudging task of reestablishing its presence in world agricultural trade. Trade ties between Russia and Afghanistan were severed during the past decades of conflict, and have yet to be repaired. Until recently, the Russian markets for fresh fruits, such as pomegranates, were completely out of reach for Afghan farmers. Not only could the Afghan farmers not understand the new import and customs laws of Russia, but they also couldn’t figure out a cost effective way to get their fruits to Russia intact. The Russians were concerned with the safety and quality of Afghan fruits. Roots of Peace saw this as a substantial problem for the poor struggling Afghan farmers, are working on fixing the problem.
Trading fresh fruit with Russia would give Afghan farmers a chance to increase profits and open up future trade opportunities. Roots of Peace promoted trade ties with the Russian cities of Moscow and Ufa, which had formerly seized to exist due to the 30 years of conflict. Roots of Peace demystified Russia’s customs and import policies for the Afghan farmers with Roots of Peace’s ability to work around the language barrier. This will definitely help make future trading easier for Afghanistan and Russia. Roots of Peace trained the Afghan farmers on proper post harvest management such as fruit handling and storage, sorting, grading and proper packing of fresh fruits. This would prove to the Russians that they did not need to worry about the quality and safety of Afghan fruit. Roots of Peace also demonstrated the need for the fruit to be shipped in a refrigerated container so that it would arrive fresh and ready for market.
Mr. Haji Saif Nooran, from the Afghan province of Kandahar, became Afghanistan’s first trader to export to Russia. With the helpful funding from Roots of Peace’s USAID CHAMP Program, a 22.5 metric ton refrigerated shipment of pomegranates was sent to Russia in December 2012. The shipment was sent through the port city of Karachi, Pakistan and took 55 days to reach Russia. The pomegranates surely would have spoiled during this journey had they not been refrigerated.
Mr. Haji Saif Nooran says “I am very excited. Through CHAMP I was able to explore the Russian market for Afghanistan’s delicious fresh fruits (Pomegranate) after 3 decades of war, which has significant economical impact on the income of poor farmers and Afghani traders. I appreciate CHAMP’s support for the shipment of my product.”
Success was met at the Russian markets, as Mr. Nooran has plans to follow up his pilot shipment with a 100 metric ton shipment in July 2013. This is a great indication that Afghanistan’s agricultural economy is well on its way to full recovery, which will result in Afghan farmers being able to earn a decent living.