Prices of dry fruits in India triple as trade with Afghanistan halts

People shopping at a Delhi wholesale vegetable market. India imports about 85 per cent of its dry fruits from Afghanistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGALORE - Bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan, amounting to around $2 billion annually, has come to a halt after the Taleban's takeover of Kabul on Aug 15.

An important trade partner, India imports around 85 per cent of its dry fruits from Afghanistan and exports essential supplies to the war-torn country.

Last year, imports consisting mainly of figs, walnuts, almonds, and raisins totalled US$509 million (S$689 million).

Almost 70 per cent of India's asafoetida, an aromatic ingredient important in Indian kitchens, is also imported from Afghanistan.

Prices of dry fruits in India have tripled over the past week as the trade routes closed.

India's exports of garments, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, computers, hardware materials, cement, sugar and synthetic fibre to Afghanistan stood at US$825 million last year.

Most exports of Indian sugar to Afghanistan - the second-largest buyer of the product after Indonesia - are sent overland through Karachi, Pakistan.

Trade between the countries had increased last year by 75 per cent over 2019, but came to a standstill this month.

But Indian traders are keeping their fingers crossed about the possibility of a new trade agreement with a Taleban-led government.

"There may be no business coming in from Afghanistan for the next six months at least. I am preparing for losses worth 150 million rupees (S$2.73 million) every month, especially in the upcoming Deepavali season when people usually celebrate by gifting almonds, figs and raisins," said Mr Krishna Tewari, a trader in Khadi Bawli, one of New Delhi's biggest dry fruit markets.

Mr Ajay Sahi, chief executive of the trade body, Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said Afghanistan was "not such an important market for India" as it accounted for only 0.02 per cent of exports and 0.015 per cent of imports, but the politically unstable country depended heavily on India.

"We account for 45-50 per cent of their total exports, for spices around 45 per cent, and for raisins 90 per cent," said Mr Sahi, concluding that any government in Afghanistan would likely strike a favourable trade deal with India.

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