The Afghan pomegranate value chain

The Afghan pomegranate value chain

The main challenges of the Afghan Pomegranate value chain

The Afghan pomegranate

Afghanistan is worldwide well known for its high-quality pomegranate and is often referred to as the best pomegranate in the world. Pomegranate derived products can be jams, marmalades, single strength juices, jellies, juice concentrates and frozen seeds. The pulp and leftover can be processed and produce a variety of other products such as spices, skin care cream and oil. These products are mostly processed in other country due to lack of proper machinery in Kandahar south of Afghanistan. In spite of the potential to expand, the Afghan pomegranate industry is limited because it faces several challenges which ultimately affect the promotion and export to the international market.

The Pomegranate Value Chain Event

At the end of 2020, RAWNAQ Project organized a Pomegranate value chain knowledge event at the Cordaid Southern Regional field Office in Kandahar. The purpose of the event was to discuss several aspects of the pomegranate chain value, share ideas, experiences, challenges and the constraints that are encountered in the sector. The event counted with the presence of various actors all of whom are involved in the pomegranate industry. Among them were representatives of DAIL, the leader of the fresh fruit association, but also farmers, middlemen and processors who shared their main challenges and constrains in the pomegranate value chain. 

What are the main issues?

In Kandahar the total production of pomegranates is divided between small- and large-scale farmers. Small-scale farmers are responsible for 25% of the production and the remaining 75% is produced by large- scale farmers. Small-scale farmers sell their pomegranates to middlemen and a portion is also sold to large-scale farmers via contract farming. However, it’s the middlemen who transport the pomegranates to the markets. 

The three main reasons to why farmers incur loss are micronutrient deficiency, Fungal attack and non-proper irrigation system. These three problems reduce the quality and quantity of pomegranate produced each year. Small-scale farmers usually practice organic farming. At times they lack access to fertilizers and pesticides and improper soil management can also occur all to which can lead to fungal attack, harvest loss and limited production. In regards to the irrigation system, although drip irrigation is more efficient than the stream irrigation, the majority of farmers tends to use stream irrigation. Small-scale farmers mainly utilize this system because initially irrigation was set up for flood water system. The water and irrigation system runs as a flood water system in most parts of the pomegranates farms in Kandahar. The drip water system would therefore not work in their current farming system. Small-scale farmers would need to rectify their irrigation system in order to achieve a more efficient system. 

Although there is significant pre-harvest loss, the post-harvest loss mainly occurs with the middlemen, once the pomegranate is sold to the middlemen, they transport it to the processors or to exporters. When the middlemen buy pomegranates from the farmers, about 10% of the product goes to waste after the transportation to the processor. According to the middlemen, most loss occurs due to insecurity, low quality packaging, improper or lack of transportation means, customs, Duties and Tariffs, badly maintained roads, road blockages, documentation issues, diseases which result in cracking of pomegranates, lack of storage space, lack of cold storage. The latter has a big impact on the chain as this means that the pomegranates can only be kept for a limited time and therefore must be sold during harvest season. This drops the price for most farmers as they are not able to control the demand and supply. 

Packaging

Packaging materials for the transportation of pomegranates are usually made of paper, plastic or Sawada. The latter is a large sized traditional package which is made out of wood sticks. Packaging materials for processing and export companies, are available in Kandahar. There are a few carton production factories which produce cartons and packs upon request and demands. 

Pomegranates that are exported are usually of better quality. If Pomegranates are destined for processors, they are first harvested and then stored in the garden collection points until they are separated according to their quality. The low-quality pomegranates are sold in the local market, the mid-quality is used for processing (Kanda fruit) and the high-quality pomegranates are for export. The processors usually use cracked pomegranates however the cracked and damaged pomegranates are not suitable for export. 

Processing and Export 

There are 15 small-scale and large-scale exporting companies in Kandahar. The export process starts from Kandahar Spin Boldak to Pakistan and then transit via the Waga border to India, other routes are the Chabahar port in Iran and other international export destinations via air cargo such as the United Arab Emirates and Europe. According to the Afghan National Statistic and Information (NSIA) 2019 annual report, 61,081,070 kg of pomegranates where exported in that same year with a value of USD 14,746,581. 

The cost of the pomegranates depends on whether they are consumed locally, in neighbouring provinces or abroad. If exported to Pakistan or India, the costs will be higher. In this case, the pomegranates need to be exported in reefer containers which cost USD 3,500, from Kandahar to Karachi. 

Although the pomegranate is exported to Pakistan, India and some parts of Europe, the biggest amount of the produce is consumed nationally. The numbers vary depending on the seasons and productivity but on average, 2 lac tons are produced annually and 1.3 lac tons remain in Afghanistan and the remaining is exported. For a more attractive supply of Kandahar’s pomegranates and for it to reach its full potential, there are many challenges that need to be tackled. The current supply of pomegranates to global markets is far from enough.

The participants shared the following main challenges in the Pomegranate value chain:

  1. Pre-harvest losses due to insufficient and improper usage of fertilizers and pesticides.
  2. Post-harvest losses due to improper transportation and cold storages.
  3. Security
  4. Duties and Tariffs
  5. Diseases which result in cracking of pomegranates i.e. 90% of pomegranates cracked last year. 
  6. Under standardized packaging.
  7. Improper irrigation and soil management.
  8. Lack of storages 
  9. Lack of transportation vehicle (reefer containers for long-distance export)

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