Afghanistan’s plans to fly shipments from southern fruit growers to India have gone awry, leaving tons of grapes and melons to rot as officials scramble to add flights, while trading blame for the delays.
Horticultural producers, who export nearly $360 million worth of goods each year, have long grappled with the challenges of transport in the mountainous nation. The flights offered them a way around frequent border closures by neighboring Pakistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this week ordered officials to coordinate more closely with the airlines to ensure every flight carried 80 to 100 tons of fruit, the presidential palace said in a statement, after he met business leaders on the issue.
Officials of the chamber of commerce in Kabul say they are trying to negotiate deals with at least one more Afghan airline, Kam Air, besides national carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines, in the effort to add more flights.
Since June 19, just one flight, carrying 60 tonnes of medicinal plants, has left Kandahar, Haji Nasrullah Zaheer, head of the city’s chamber of commerce, told Reuters. “It is fruit season in Kandahar, but the delicate fruit just rotted here due to lack of flights,” he said.