Poverty, lack of export markets hit Herat farmers hard despite high yields

By Omar

Amid the deepening economic crisis and Afghans' weakening purchasing power, there is no market for vegetables in Herat province, farmers say. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Amid the deepening economic crisis and Afghans' weakening purchasing power, there is no market for vegetables in Herat province, farmers say.

Ghulam Hazrat Hasanzada, 43, a farmer in Guzara district, Herat province, cultivated vegetables on his 2.9 acres (6 jeribs) of land in 2022.

The harvest was good, he said, but there are fewer customers in the market than there were last year.

"I worked very hard and spent a lot of money this [solar] year but lost more instead of benefiting," he said. "Most of the farmers have suffered losses from the lack of sales in the market this year."

Three famers harvest carrots at their farm December 31 in Guzara district, Herat province. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Three famers harvest carrots at their farm December 31 in Guzara district, Herat province. [Omar/Salaam Times]

"We used to buy two bags of chemical fertiliser, each a different kind -- one black and one white -- for 4,000 AFN [$46]. But the price has increased to 10,000 AFN [$114]," he said.

"I used to take a cart full of vegetables to the market to sell and would make 8,000 AFN [$91], but I make only 3,000 AFN [$34] for selling the same amount of vegetables now."

If the authorities facilitate the export of vegetables or build standard cold storage facilities, farmers will earn an income instead of suffering losses, he said.

Abdul Razaq Omari, 35, cultivated carrots and cabbage on his 2.9 acres (6 jeribs) of farmland in Guzara district in 2022.

While his yields were much better this solar year than they were last year, he said the market has no demand for produce.

"Businesses have stopped, and people have become very poor," he said. "People prefer to buy a loaf of bread instead of carrots, vegetables or fruits."

He lost money in 2022 rather than making any profit, he said.

"I bought a bag of black fertiliser for 6,000 AFN [$68] and a bag of white fertiliser for 3,000 AFN [$34]," he said. "However, I sell a kilogramme of carrots for 20 AFN [$0.23] and cabbage for 12 AFN [$0.14] in today's market."

With lower demand driving market prices even lower, he said, he cannot possibly break even this harvest.

Lack of support for exports

While vegetable yields increased in 2022, farmers say they have no way to export their products.

Without support for exports, farmers are forced to sell their products for less than market value, said Sayed Mohammad Akhtarzada, 47, a farmer in Guzara district.

"As the harvest of vegetables is high at this time of the season, it is crucial to facilitate the export of these products," he said. "Domestic market capacity cannot absorb all our products because the supply is greater than the demand."

"Vegetable products are available in the country, and vegetables are also imported .. at this time of year," he said.

"In order to support the sales of domestic produce, the import of vegetables ... should be prevented," he said. "However, unfortunately, they are being imported in excessive amounts."

Akhtarzada said he is considering not growing vegetables in 2023 because of his financial losses and low demand.

Shah Mohammad Karimi, 36, who grew vegetables on his 4.9 acres (10 jeribs) of land in Guzara district, said if domestic products were supported, he would have made profits instead of suffering losses in 2022.

"If I take a truckload of vegetables to the market, I cannot earn more than 5,000 AFN [$57]," he said. "I have already spent over 700,000 AFN [$7,980] on growing my harvest this year. I am not sure how I can recover the money I spent as prices remain very low at the market."

"No support has been provided for agricultural products in Herat whatsoever," he said. "Authorities let vegetables and fruits be imported ... but do not support domestic products."

Karimi said the agriculture sector, like other sectors, sustained great losses over the past year, and if the situation continues, no farmer will be willing to grow vegetables and grains in the coming solar year.

Vegetables -- including carrots, cabbages, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, cauliflower, okras and turnips -- were cultivated on more than 6,600 hectares in this solar year in Herat, according to the Provincial Agriculture Directorate.

While vegetable yields are expected to reach almost 85,000 tonnes, this year's harvest far exceeds the needs of the market in Herat, the Directorate said.

Rising unemployment, poverty

Abdul Nasir Qadiri, 34, runs a vegetable stall in Herat city.

The sole breadwinner of his seven-member family, he said he earns 100-200 AFN ($1.14-$2.28) daily from selling vegetables.

He previously worked at Herat's Land Authority Directorate but was dismissed in 2021.

"I spend my entire day standing outdoors, but there are no customers," Qadri said. "Only a few people come and buy vegetables. I encourage some people who pass by my stall to buy vegetables, but they say that they do not have money."

"When I had a job, I used to take home several types of vegetables every night, but now that I am a vegetable seller, I cannot take vegetables anymore," he said. "Instead, now I can take home only half-rotten vegetables that people have not bought."

Qadiri said poverty and unemployment have reached a level that the priority of families is to look for a loaf of bread, not vegetables and fruits.

Nizamuddin Poya, 31, a labourer in Herat city, said he has not bought vegetables over the past two months.

"I have forgotten when I last bought vegetables," he said.

"My only concern is to find a loaf of bread for my family. There are five of us in the house, and I am the only breadwinner for the family," he said. "I do not have a job or income, so how can I afford to buy vegetables and fruits?"

Poya said he hopes that the situation improves so that businesses resume and he can find a job and provide for his family.

"My children need to eat vegetables and fruits to be healthy and to grow, but I cannot buy them," he said. "When the job market was better, I used to buy vegetables and fruits at least twice a week, but we have become so poor this year."

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Every paragraph of this report breaks the heart of a person. Because of internal and external enemies, our people live like other people of the world did in the 18th century. Unfortunately, neither the international community gave us basic help nor did our internal government officials do anything to bring long-term benefits to the people during the past twenty-twenty-one years. It is not necessary to increase the yield only. We must have internal and external markets to sell our products. Pakistan permanently closes its gates at the time of the arrival of fruits and vegetables. As much as there is an increment in domestic production, it is equally important to provide it with foreign markets. The new government of Afghanistan, which does not have official relations with any country in the world due to its stupidity and inexperience, is now working on constructing the Qush Tepa Canal in the north. I imagined yesterday that if there is no regular market for the products of this canal, where will its fruits and vegetables being sold? Afghan officials should get out of the elephant's ear. A ruling system like the time of the Prophet (PBUH) can not be established. It is not possible and now is not the time. It is useful for them to create a system like the system of an Islamic country such as Turkey (United Arab) Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Egypt, etc., which the countries of the world recognize. Then, instead of hypocritic Pakistan, it can find its way to the Centra


On the other hand, the good news is that there has been an increase in exports from Afghanistan. The Deputy of the Taliban Chief Minister reports an export increase in the first nine months of this year. Department of the deputy, headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said in a tweet today that, due to the measures taken to stabilize the country's economy, exports reached 1424 million dollars in the first nine months of the solar year 1401. Also, it was said that, in the first nine months of the solar years 1399 and 1400, Afghanistan's exports to foreign countries were 434 and 478 million dollars, respectively. The economic deputy of the Taliban's chief minister also said that if the export process continues, the level will reach two billion dollars by the end of the current solar year 1401. Coal, dry and fresh fruits, carpets, and many other items are important export items to foreign countries, especially Afghanistan's neighboring countries.


There is an abundance of food in Afghanistan. There are many vegetables in the Afghan markets. Compared to the previous years, people do not feel the lack of food or vegetables in the Afghan markets. The problems that the people of Afghanistan have is lack of work. People do not have money to buy something for their children. That is why the vegetables are worn out in the market for the lack of customers. Farmers spend a lot on their agricultural land, but people don't have money to buy the vegetables. This is why farmers sell their vegetables with losses. If you ask a fruit seller who has several varieties of fruit in his shop, how is your life, uncle, uncle [maternal], or brother? In response, he would say that I owe five hundred thousand or more because there are no sales. The poor shopkeeper consumes what he sells to fulfill the basic needs of his family, and the provisions of the family and the fruit they have inside the shop are ruined due to the lack of customers for that fruit. This is also a loss. In fact, 80% of Afghan shopkeepers borrow money to pay the rent of their shops, their taxes, the guarding and expenses of their houses from the money they have in their shops. They cannot bring the same item that they sold back to their shops. The economy of Afghan people is getting worse day by day. The shopkeepers and the farmers will not be able to compensate for these losses in the next ten years. In the past, if a shopkeeper was spending AFN 10 on something, now he d