Low almond prices hit farmers
KABUL, 26 August 2009 (IRIN) - Almond production in
Afghanistan has increased by over 20 percent on last
year, but the price they fetch has gone down by over
40 percent, according to provincial officials, who
have expressed concern for farmers' livelihoods.
The northern province of Samagan produced over
1,000 tons of in-shell almonds this year compared with
about 800 tons in 2008, Noor Mohammad, head of the
provincial agriculture department, told IRIN.
Agriculture officials in Balkh, Parwan and Daykundi
provinces also reported increases in almond
However, almond prices have fallen sharply. Abdul
Fatah, a farmer in Samangan, said last year he sold
one kilogram of in-shell almonds for 100 Afghanis
[US$2]. "This year the price is down to 60 Afghanis,"
Farmers in Samangan and Daykundi said low market
prices directly affected their incomes and thus their
ability to meet basic needs such as food and health
care. "If I sell my almonds at 60 Afghanis [US$1.2] a
kilo I will not be able to feed my family during
winter," said a farmer in the central province of
Mohammad Hussein, another farmer from Daykundi,
told IRIN his 2,500 almond trees were damaged in the
avalanches and floods in 2008, resulting in a very
poor harvest last year. "This year production is good
but the price is down," said Hussein, adding that the
price of a kilo of almonds in Daykundi was 50 Afghanis
($1) - lower than elsewhere in the country.
Hundreds of households depend on almond production
in Samangan, Balkh, Parwan, Kunduz and Daykundi
provinces. Dried fruit and nuts - such as almonds,
raisins and pistachios - are among the country's major
export earners, with annual exports worth about US$125
million, according to the government.
Need for investment
About 40 varieties of almonds are grown, mostly in
northern Afghanistan, according to a study by the
Afghanistan Investment Support Agency.
The country's annual almond production was
estimated at over 38,700 tons in 2005, with exports
worth $9.4 million (24 percent of all horticultural
exports), the study said.
Most Afghan farmers sell almonds in their shells or
as kernels in local markets, albeit at low prices, but
there is "excellent potential" for almond exports to
grow, according to a Survey of Afghanistan's
horticulture sector by the UN Food and Agriculture
"Because of the lack of processing, packaging and
marketing facilities at home, most of Afghanistan's
high quality almonds and dried fruits are sold in
international markets under other countries' brands,"
said Azeem Mustafa Hashimi, director of the Dried
Fruits & Vegetables Export Promotion Agency.
"If we had local processing and packaging plants
for almonds and other dried fruits and directly
exported products to foreign markets it would double
the benefits for farmers and increase revenues for the
government," said an experienced merchant in Kabul's
dried fruit bazaar.
The FAO survey said Afghanistan's climate was ideal
for the production and development of the many types
of almond grown in the country. But more investment
was needed, said Hashimi.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
project the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
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the views of the United Nations or its agencies.