August 20 (IndiaToday) – The deteriorating political situation in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover has led to a spike in prices of dry fruits sold in India ahead of the festive season. Traders are in a lurch, not knowing when the supply will be restored.
The Taliban has stopped all imports and exports with India, said Dr Ajay Sahai, Director General (DG) of Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO). According to reports, the Taliban has stopped the movement of cargo through the transit routes of Pakistan.
The FIEO has expressed concern about dry fruit prices going through the roof in days to come due to the turmoil in Afghanistan. India imports around 85 per cent of its dry fruits from the war-torn country.
Speaking with India Today, Ajay Sahai said, “We are keeping an eye on the developments in Afghanistan. Imports from there come through the transit route of Pakistan. At the moment, Taliban has stopped the movement of cargo to Pakistan, so imports have virtually stopped.”
“If trade doesn’t resume, prices of the existing dry fruit stock will shoot and traders will have to also look for alternative sources of supply,” he said.
Echoing Sahai, Gaurav Jaggi, a trader in New Delhi’s Khadi Bawari (the biggest dry fruit market), said prices of almonds, walnuts, apricots from Afghanistan had doubled and tripled over the past few days.
“We are already seeing an impact on prices. It is impacting the consumer, prices have steadily risen over the past few days. This is the harvesting season for many dry fruits but because the supply chain has been throttled, we don’t expect fresh stock to arrive anytime soon,” Gaurav Jaggi said.
Another trader lamented about losses in business in the upcoming festive season. “The situation is volatile in Afghanistan, the dry fruits market has been badly hit. We are now looking at other options to source dry fruits from. The prices have doubled and tripled and with the festive season round the corner, we are hoping for the trade routes to open up soon, otherwise this situation will impact the pocket of the common man severely,” Ashwani said.
A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
The impact of the crisis in Afghanistan is being felt across the country. Dry fruit traders in Jammu are a worried lot as they are facing disruption in imports of figs, almonds, pistachio, and apricot. As a result, the prices of dry fruits have risen sharply, leading to heavy financial losses for these traders.
A double-edged sword is hanging over the neck of small dry fruits traders, who have to contend with the surge in prices of dry fruits along with the slowdown in the sale of their wares in the last one week.
Shanti Gupta, a dry fruits trader in Jammu, said, “Import supply has been severely impacted due to the present situation in Afghanistan. As a result, prices of dry fruits have risen sharply. Our customers are unable to understand the problem. We are losing our business just ahead of the festive season.”
While low sales are hurting traders, high prices are crushing the common man.
“I’m a senior citizen. I regularly purchase dry fruits. Dry fruits are immunity boosters. But now prices of dry fruits are skyrocketing. It has become very difficult for common man to afford buying dry fruits,” said a customer outside a dry fruits shop in Jammu.
WHAT THE NUMBERS SAY
India’s import bill with Afghanistan for the financial year 2020-21 was Rs 3,753.47 crore, of which Rs 2,389.86 crore was for edible fruits and nuts, citrus fruits, melons.
The bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan was $1.4 billion in 2020-21, compared to $1.52 billion in 2019-20.
Exports from India were valued at $826 million while imports amounted to $510 million in 2020-21.
Afghan exports to India include dried raisins, walnuts, almonds, figs, pine nuts, pistachios, dried apricot and fresh fruits such as apricot, cherry, watermelon, and a few medicinal herbs.
India’s exports to Afghanistan include tea, coffee, pepper and cotton, toys, footwear and various other consumable items.