Those who visit Afghanistan in late summer are often surprised by the vineyards that line the plains of Shamali, north of Kabul, the outskirts of Herat, to the east, or the Panjwai region, in the southern province of Kandahar. Except in the highest areas, almost a hundred varieties of grapes are grown throughout the country, which last year produced 874,000 tons, according to sources of the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture (MAIL).
It is a potential source of income that could help to leave behind the four decades of wars and conflicts that Afghans have chained since the Soviet invasion of 1979, and serve as an alternative to the cultivation of drugs that generalized misgovernment. However, as with other products in the field, farmers face a lack of transportation and distribution infrastructure. The need to sell the crop before the bunches are rotting often sinks prices.
In fact, Afghanistan is among the top ten producers of raisins in the world.
But it is a sector in decline. Not only with respect to the time before the Soviet invasion when it produced 10% of all raisins (today it only represents between 2% and 3%), but even year after year. Despite World Bank assistance to improve processing and packaging, of the 22,000 tons exported in the 2014-2015 season, it has risen to just 15,000 tons two years later.
In the same period, the thirty professional dryers that existed in the country have been reduced by half as a result of the lack of financial support (difficulty in obtaining loans) and the irregularity in the electricity supply. While the slits of the traditional Keshmesh, in addition to letting the wind pass, they also let the dust pass, reducing the quality of the product that fails to meet the demanding EU criteria. For the moment, only in the United Arab Emirates, Russia and the Indian subcontinent is it possible to enjoy the rich Afghan raisins.