Grape harvest sees spike in Herat with help of Salma Dam

By Emran

The regular flow of water from Salma Dam has increased the quality and quantity of the grape harvest in Herat province, but the lack of export markets is concerning, farmers say. [Emran/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Herat's grape harvest is expected to increase by 20% this year thanks to good rainfall and the regular flow of irrigation water from Salma Dam to orchards.

"It is expected that as many as 150,000 tonnes of grapes will be harvested in Herat this year," compared to 130,000 tonnes last year, said Pir Mohammad Halimi, director of Herat province's Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

"While a few varieties of grapes have already been harvested, others will be reaped in the coming weeks," he said.

"Forty percent of the grape production meets the needs of local consumption in Herat and some neighbouring provinces," Halimi said. "The remaining 60% will be dried as raisins, and part of it will probably be exported to neighbouring countries."

A farmer in Guzara district, Herat province, checks out his grapes in his garden on July 5. [Emran/Salaam Times]

A farmer in Guzara district, Herat province, checks out his grapes in his garden on July 5. [Emran/Salaam Times]

In this photograph taken May 5, Salma Dam is seen in Chishti Sharif district, Herat province. [Omar/Salaam Times]

In this photograph taken May 5, Salma Dam is seen in Chishti Sharif district, Herat province. [Omar/Salaam Times]

In addition to grapes, the harvest of other agricultural products has increased this year, he added.

Salma Dam has provided sufficient water to orchards and farms at a critical time this year, Halimi said, leading to an increase in grain and fruit production in Herat province.

In May, all three of the dam's turbines became simultaneously operational for the first time.

Hundreds of grape orchards with more than 100 types of grapes have been established across Herat during the past two decades.

The grape harvest is unprecedented this year, said Niaz Mohammad, a farmer in Guzara district, Herat province.

"Considering the rising economic problems, the increase in grape production will help us in many ways, and we will see more returns on our investment this year," he said, referring to Afghanistan's economic crisis.

Mohammad expects to harvest high quality grapes as no plant diseases or pests occurred this year.

"I am so happy that my efforts have produced a good outcome and that I see my orchard full of fruit," he said.

Lack of export markets

"However, the lack of a market is a major concern for all of us," said Mohammad.

The export of grapes and raisins from Herat has been halted over the past year.

Even though grape production is very high this year, there have been no efforts to explore export markets, said Bashir Ahmad Bahaduri, chair of Herat's Chamber of Agriculture.

"Air corridor services have remained closed for the past few months, and no cargo flights are happening," he said. "Furthermore, we cannot export grapes overland."

"Farmers dry up grapes into raisins because it is currently not possible to export [fresh grapes]," he said. "However, they hope they will be able to export them as soon as air corridor services resume."

The Chamber of Agriculture, in co-ordination with the private sector, is exploring options to export Herat's raisins, Bahaduri said.

More than 20,000 tonnes of grapes were exported last year, according to the Chamber of Agriculture. The bulk of these exports was carried out through the air corridor.

Ghulam Mahboob Zayartjahi, a farmer in Guzara district, said he was very happy about the increase in his grape yield, but the unavailability of an export market concerns him the most.

"Local markets are usually saturated during the grape harvest season, and we have a serious need to export," he said. "When there is no export, grapes remain in our hands."

"If our grapes are not sold, we have no cold storage," he said. "If the grapes are sold fresh, they are much more profitable than raisins. Now we have no option except to consider turning them into raisins."

Sixty to 70% of Herat's grapes are suitable for export, but because of the lack of export services, farmers suffer great financial losses every year, said Zayartjahi.

Raisin houses

More than 60% of grapes in the province are converted into raisins, according to Herat's Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

The construction of 1,500 raisin houses during the past two years has made it possible to dry grapes into raisins in Herat.

Since fresh grapes are not exported, the raisin houses have helped Herat farmers prevent their harvest from perishing, said Abdul Naser Haidari, a farmer in Guzara district.

"We used to dry raisins by adapting our traditional techniques; however, we currently have access to standard raisin houses," he said. "Herat's raisin production has increased substantially because of the existence of these houses."

"Herat farmers sell their raisins at a higher price because of their quality and taste," he said. "The market value of Herat raisins went up unprecedentedly ... because of their high quality, and this has brought great profit for farmers."

The raisin houses built earlier have played a vital role in producing high quality raisins in the province, said Bashir Ahmad Ahmadi, an agriculture specialist in Herat city.

"Farmers were drying raisins in a traditional way, which meant very low quality," he said. "This led to a situation where fewer Herat raisins were exported."

"Now that the quality of Herat raisins has improved, most countries are interested in importing them," he said. "The private sector has established contacts with several countries, and it is expected that Herat's raisin exports will increase soon."

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May the country develop even more. Whoever served Afghanistan, may Allah grant him a long and beautiful life. This project was completed during the era of H.E. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. Afghans will always remember him. Even though the Iranians made much effort to destroy this project, the Afghan forces kept it alive, and it was finally completed. Now the new officials need to find a market for selling the grapes of Herat, but this may not be possible. That is because Afghanistan is currently isolated from the world. The new leaders need to compromise with the world. If this does not happen, Afghanistan will have ruin status, and no one will visit the ruins or maintain relations with them.


Afghanistan’s neighbors and enemies knew the importance of Afghanistan’s water, and they realized that if the republic lasts, like Salma Dam many other dams would be built and they won’t be able to consume Afghanistan’s free and gratis water. Thus they came together and overthrew the republic. At the time of the republic system's collapse, there were many large and small dams under construction all over the country, but now their construction work is suspended, and they are facing more damage. This is the Taliban’s gift to Afghanistan, and these are the patriotic slogans of these Pakistani-trained militias. May God free us from their evil soon.


At a time when an unprecedented drought has engulfed all over the country and has caused unprecedented problems and difficulties in people’s lives, such news is a source of hope and happiness. Meanwhile, this news clearly highlights the importance of Afghanistan’s water and teaches us why such dams should be built. The Salma dam indicated that if the water of Afghanistan are controlled and the people of Afghanistan themselves can make use of it, positive changes will come in their lives. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to use this divine blessing, and instead of us, other countries are using it. Let’s hope for the day when Afghanistan's water will be fully controlled and the people of Afghanistan will make use of it. Thanks to Salaam Times website for publishing such news.