Economy

Afghan government to build 4,400 raisin houses to boost exports, create jobs

By Omar

In an effort to boost farmers' income and increase Afghanistan's raisin production, the Ministry of Agriculture has started to build thousands of raisin houses in ten provinces with the highest number of vineyards. [Omar]

HERAT -- In an effort to boost farmers' income and increase Afghanistan's raisin production, the Ministry of Agriculture has started to build thousands of raisin houses in 10 provinces.

These raisin houses will help increase production of high quality raisins that comply with export standards, officials say.

Construction of more than 4,000 raisin houses in Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Helmand, Ghazni, Parwan, Sar-e-Pul, Faryab, Zabul and Paktia provinces has already started, said Akbar Rustami, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

The total cost of building the raisin houses is more than 1.6 billion AFN ($20.8 million), funding for which comes from the Afghan government budget and is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Rustami said.

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A raisin house under construction is pictured August 5 in Guzara District, Herat Province. [Omar]

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Two workers check the quality of raisins at a factory in Herat Industrial City on July 2. [Omar]

Each raisin house costs 370,000 AFN ($4,800) to build.

"These raisin houses can collectively store more than 70,000 tonnes of grapes, meaning that 70,000 tonnes of grapes will be processed into raisins this year in these raisin houses," he said.

Construction of the raisin houses began at the end of July, and all the raisin houses will be completed in the next 30 to 45 days, Rustami said on August 10.

Creating job opportunities

Construction of the raisin houses in Herat Province has provided jobs for thousands of young Afghans and for farmers, local authorities say.

Of the more than 4,400 planned raisin houses across Afghanistan, 1,026 will be situated in Herat Province, said Bashir Ahmad Ahmadi, deputy director for technical matters of the Herat Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

"The raisin house building project is entirely a job creation initiative," he said. "More than 100 daily wage labourers work in every raisin house. One engineer has been assigned to monitor the construction work at each raisin house."

The raisin houses are being built in 12 districts of the province that have high grape production, with most located in Guzara, Injil, Obe and Pashtun Zarghun districts, Ahmadi said.

Building the houses is a fundamental government project that has created thousands of jobs for young Afghans, said Abdul Aziz, a farmer in Guzara District.

"More than 200 people have found a variety of jobs in the construction of each raisin house," he said.

"These raisin houses will help us produce higher quality raisins," he said. "Previously, we used to lay grapes on the ground in our houses, which resulted in black and lower quality raisins. But with these raisin houses, we'll be able to produce better raisins."

"The building of these raisin houses is important for the country's economy and security," he added.

"Everyone is busy working on the raisin houses -- from bricklayers and brick-makers ... to those who transport the construction materials and work in building the raisin houses," said Aqa Muhammad, a farmer in Guzara District.

"The raisin houses have created jobs for young people and farmers," he said.

"This is definitely an essential project, and we praise and are happy with this initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture," he said.

"The government has helped greatly in boosting our vegetable and fruit production," said Muhammad Anwar Qalandari, a farmer in Guzara District.

"We call on the Taliban not to destroy the projects the government has built [for us], and we encourage them as Afghans to contribute to the country's prosperity," he said.

"Alleviating poverty and hardship that Afghans suffer from necessitates that all of us do our part," he said. "The Taliban are a part of society, and if they take part in economic growth, poverty and joblessness in the country will no doubt diminish."

Facilitating exports

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak this year has forced the closure of ground routes to some neighbouring countries and limitations on commercial air transport, restricting grape exports from Herat.

"The ministries of foreign affairs and commerce are speaking with the ambassadors of various countries in Kabul to pave the way for raisin exports to their countries," said Herat Governor Sayed Wahid Qatali.

"Some of the Gulf countries have shown interest in buying Afghanistan's raisins, with Saudi Arabia showing the most interest," he said.

"A first-of-its-kind facility in Herat that processes and packages raisins has started operations in Herat Industrial City," said Abdul Saboor Rahmani, director of the Herat Department of Agriculture. "The facility helps with improving the quality of raisins and has the capacity to process 22 tonnes of raisins per day."

The raisin processing and packaging factory started operations on July 2 with a total investment of $550 million (42.8 billion AFN) from the private sector.

Based on the Herat Department of Agriculture's forecast, more than 140,000 tonnes of grapes will be produced this year in Herat, and most of them will be processed into raisins.

"With the new facility operational, the quality of Herat raisins will improve 100%," Rahmani said. "The raisins we exported previously are very different from the ones processed at this facility and then exported."

"The price of processed raisins will increase," he said. "Every tonne of raisins was priced at $800 (62,000 AFN) previously for export, but now the price of every ton of the processed raisin has risen to $1,300 (101,000 AFN)."

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Good article!  Real news about people doing constructive, sensible, hopeful things!  Thank you. I was concerned, however, to see that the houses would be of brick.  Regular, fired brick comes with a high cost.  You have to burn a lot of coal or wood to produce it, releasing a lot of CO2. To build with brick, you need a lot of cement, another material with a heavy carbon footprint.  Children often work in Afghan brick yards in dismal conditions. Afghan raisin houses were traditionally built with unfired adobe bricks made by local labor right on construction sites from locally sourced clay.  Westernized Afghans will often sniff at 'mud' construction - then angle to see who gets to contract for the more expensive brick and cement alternatives.  Adobe construction offers a lot of advantages over brick in expense, thermal performance, air quality, and ease of maintenance.    Recognizing this, the US Army turned increasingly to adobe construction in Afghanistan a decade ago.  It published a story about it in Nov. 2011 in Army.mil: "Adobe-style builds ensure greater efficiencies in Afghanistan".  It concluded with "Any disadvantages?  Apparently not. That's why they have been building this way for millennia," 

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Thanks for the comment you wrote in English. Can you please translate it into Dari?

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Great; it is a good move. We thank the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for the construction of these factories.

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Yes, the government can improve our lives through infrastructural projects. All the problems of Afghans are because of poverty and unemployment. Through the implementation of these projects, thousands of people will be hired on jobs and the country will become self-sufficient.

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Afghanistan is an agricultural country and more than 70 % of the country’s population is engaged in agriculture and livestock. If the Afghan government pays attention to this sector, people's economic problem will be solved to a great extent. One of the reasons for the deterioration of security situation in rural areas of Afghanistan and the joining of people in the ranks of Taliban and other terrorist groups have been poverty and economic problems. If work is done in the agricultural sector and a market is found for the farmers' products, the economy of the people will improve and war will reduce in the country. Over the past two decades, the economy of the people of the rural areas has become weak a lot. On one hand, governments did not provide the farmers with fertilizer and improved seeds, and on the other hand, wars between Taliban and the Afghan government as well as foreign forces’ bombardments have faced the people with various problems. If the Afghan government and its western donors build such factories in the country, people's economy will improve, and then they will no longer need to travel illegally to neighboring countries such as Iran for finding labor.

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Thank you very much for your beautiful report. I am really happy that a very vital and important project was implemented in Afghanistan. Such infrastructural projects can solve the problems of Afghanistan, because the main causes of war and insecurity in this country are poverty and economic problems. And the implementation of infrastructural projects solves these problems. By implementing such projects, on one hand Afghanistan will become self-sufficient, as it will supply its domestic products to internal and even international markets, and on the other hand, they will also provide jobs opportunities for the youth. Over the past twenty years, the International Community has done very few infrastructural works in Afghanistan. We want the United States and the European countries to make factories in all provinces of Afghanistan so that we become self-sufficient in terms of production, and produce all kinds of products inside the country.

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We thank a lot to Salaam Times for publishing reports on developments of Afghanistan. You may also write articles on Paktia and on the destructive activities of Pakistan's terrorist army and terrorist intelligence and their support from terrorists. Thanks.

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