Amid ongoing efforts to bolster the economic sector of the country through exports and domestic production, a group of at least 25 Afghan traders participated in a Food Show in Dubai where contracts worth $ 20.5 million were signed with the foreign traders.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says Afghan traders have inked $ 20.5 million in signed and potential deals for high-value agricultural products due to their participation in February at the Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai.
According to a statement, USAID supported 25 Afghan exporters at the February 2018 Gulfood Show, where Afghanistan’s agricultural riches, including world-class pomegranates, saffron, apples, apricots, melons, grapes, nuts, and raisins were on display for international buyers.
The statement further added that Gulfood is the world’s largest annual food and hospitality show. Now in its 23rd year, the event showcased 5,000 exhibitors from the food, drink, food services, and hospitality industries. This year’s exhibition welcomed more than 97,000 visitors in the course of the five-day event.
“USAID-supported exporters have yielded tens of millions of dollars in deals since Afghan participation began in 2010. This year, India was the lead buyer of Afghan produce, with 48 percent of the $12 million in confirmed deals signed at the event, followed by Saudi Arabia, which came in at 17 percent. Potential deals totaled US$8.5 million. The 2,500 metric tons of produce negotiated included raisins, figs, pistachios, saffron, and pine nuts,” the statement added.
“As a result of our participation in Gulfood, we signed the largest contract our company has ever received to export Kandahar pomegranates,” said Mr. Mahmood, the owner of Afghan Red Pomegranate.
Agriculture is backbone of Afghanistan’s economy. Up to 80 percent of Afghans are dependent on farming and livestock, and agriculture comprises 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Afghanistan’s participation at this year’s Gulfood comes on the heels of a successful USAID-supported event in New Delhi, the 2017 Afghanistan-India Trade and Investment Show, where Afghan exhibitors signed contracts valued at $ 70 million.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday invited Pakistan to take part in the Chabahar Port project.
According to Dawn News this came as Zarif sought to ease concerns of Pakistan over India’s involvement in the port.
Zarif also meanwhile extended the invitation to China.
“We offered to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). We have also offered Pakistan and China to participate in Chabahar,” said Zarif, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan.
While in Pakistan, Zarif held bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Asif and addressed a trade conference, Dawn News reported.
This move comes after Iran last month signed a lease agreement with India, which would give India operational control of the port.
Dawn news stated that Zarif said both Pakistan and India need to link through sea and land routes in order to boost development in eastern and south-eastern Iran and in south western Pakistan.
Zarif also said the Chabahar port project was not meant to “encircle Pakistan … strangulate anybody” and twice said Iran would not allow anyone to hurt Pakistan from its territory much like Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against Iran, Dawn News reported.
The Afghan government has approved a new contract related to the Fiber Optic project having a total value of around $ 383 million.
The Office of the President, ARG Palace, said the contract was approved during the latest meeting of the National Procurement Commission chaired by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
According to a statement by ARG Palace, the project relates to the issuance of investment licenses by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of Afghanistan (ATRA) for the investment on Fiber Optics project and around $ 383 million will be invested on the project.
The statement further adds that four private companies have been approved to obtain the licenses for the Fiber Optics project which include Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan, and Asian Consultancy Group.
Another firm which had also submitted an offer for the project Amania & Connectivity International was not approved for the project as certain contradictions were noted in their joint offer submitted for the approval.
The MTN Company was also not approved for the project for their failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the contract, ARG Palace said, adding that the Roshan Telecom has been approved for the project on principles and subject to the clearance of the outstanding taxes.
The National Procurement Commission also approved four other contracts during the meeting having a total value of around $475 million.
The contracts approved during the meeting include reconstruction of the first phase of Gardez to Zurmat highway belonging to the Ministry of Public Works, and construction of five compounds belonging to the ministry of higher education for quality assurance and professional development of the universities.
Other contracts approved during the meeting include completion of a 7-storey building belonging to the ministry of interior with the work to be implemented by the housing enterprise, procurement of fuel for the ministry of urban development and housing, and procurement of lubricants for the administrative office of the president, the ARG Palace added.
The state-owned Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) has for the first time issued licenses to two foreign exchange companies amid reports that the bank has not been able to control the use of foreign currencies on the local market.
The head of DAB licensing department, Abdul Waheed, said at a conference in Kabul that the use of Pakistani and Iranian currencies on local markets is concerning and that the bank is not able to overcome this problem alone.
Waheed said the bank does not know the exact number of foreign exchange businesses in the country but to date more than 1,800 of them have registered with the bank.
“The total number of money exchangers (they know about) in the country is 1,810. Of this, 1,090 companies have registered (with the bank),” he said.
According to the DAB, the two new licensed businesses will not be able to offer savings accounts to its clients or to give them loans. Instead they will be able to exchange foreign currency and offer money transfer services.
The owners of these companies said they have plans to expand operations to towns and cities around the country.
“Within the next five years we will have more than 50 branches in every nook and cranny around the country,” said Mohammad Bashir, head of Al-Bashir Exchange.
“Money services businesses have been digitalized, computerized and modernized for today’s world. This should be done in Afghanistan too,” said Jarullah Mansouri, CEO of Exchange Zone.
This comes as DAB says in order to improve the country’s money system, it is trying to legalize the activities of money exchangers across the country.
Ministry of Mines and Petroleum officials say they have established committees to tackle problems relating to 15 mining projects in the country.
Officials said the ministry has prioritized the issue of resolving these problems.
“This issue is a priority and resolving the problems around these projects is very important for the people of Afghanistan and for the country’s economy,” said Waliullah Zadran, acting director of legal services for the ministry of mines.
However, mining experts have said that in the absence of a clear vision for the development of mines in the country, problems in relation to the projects will continue.
These mining experts also said the lack of capacity within the ministry of mines is an ongoing challenge.
“I think that in the present situation, the Ministry will not be able to solve these great problems of mines; maybe it's a start, but if we do not have a clear vision for our projects, it's unlikely that we will achieve results,” said Sayed Zaman Hashimi, a legal expert in the mining industry.
Seventeen years ago, attempts were started to begin the extraction of minerals at the country's largest mines.
Of these, Aynak Copper Mine, Hajigak Iron Mine, Tajik and Amu Darya oilfields, and several other mines, were earmarked as key mines but little has been done to date to get these mines up and running.
Some shopkeepers at the Fazel Baig Fruits Market complained against the low price of local fruits especially apples and preference to apples imported from Iran.
They said the lack of marketing for local fruits and preference of contractors to Iranian apples hampered the local products and let the farmers financially down.
Price of seven-kilogram of locally produced apples ranged from AFN 80 to AFN 120 while the same quantity of the Iranian apples AFN 180, they said.
Mamor Jan, one of the local farmers who gathered at the market to register their complain, said last year the contractors purchased local fruits for security forces but this year apples had been imported from Iran due to which their business suffered.
He urged the president to reverse the last year order and direct concerned authorities to prefer local fruits and products needed by security forces which will help strengthen the local market.
Musafar Qoqundai, the ministry of commerce and industry spokesman, said that all the government organizations should buy the domestic fruits and implement the president order in this regards and buy the domestic products with 25 percent higher price.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD), said in the availability of domestically produced fruits no contractor has the right to import fruits.
He added if there was any kind of deal the ministry would fine the contractors.
Amid strained ties on political level mainly due to the circumstances surrounding the fight against terrorism, the Pakistani officials have informed regarding a drastic fall in Pakistan’s share in Afghan markets.
Chairman of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Zubair Motiwala has told Dawn News that Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan fell to $1.2 billion from $2.7bn in the last two years.
According to Motiwala, the drastic fall in Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan has direct links with the penetration of India in Afghan markets as well as China which supplies products on a competitive scale.
Motiwala further added that Pakistan has been losing even the traditional markets of flour, men and women’s clothes and red meat, affecting around the 200 flour mills out of which around 100 have been closed besides the drastic fall has affected the Peshawar medical tourism.
India has been providing goods at subsidized rates to capture the market and are providing air tickets with a 75pc rebate, he told the paper.
He also added that Afghans find it easy to travel to India with cheap tickets and free multiple visas without police checks.
According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, exports to Afghanistan dropped to $1.271bn in FY17 from $1.437bn in FY16. Exports in the first quarter of 2017-18 stood at $319 million.
According to Dawn News, State Bank’s data showed that the imports from Afghanistan increased to $68m in FY17, compared to $40m in FY16.
Four new factories will be built in capital Kabul with $12 million and 150 million Afghani of investment by the private sector.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) country director for Afghanistan Samuel Tumiwa has said the bank is committed in financing the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan (TAP) power project.
He said that the economic cooperation will also help to enhance partnerships and improve stability in the region.
The machinery of Gulbahar Textile Plant in central Kapisa province has been sold, its land partially grabbed and the building is ruined.