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Boosting productivity; Domestic products need government’s attention

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By Abdul Zuhoor Qayomi-When Afghan traders sit and count challenges, Pakistan will top the list, followed by the Afghan government. Islamabad does not allow Afghan trucks to cross Wagah border and bring Indian goods to Afghanistan. Sometimes Afghan trucks are barred from entering into Pakhtunkhwa under the pretext road pass. Likewise, Afghan authorities are focused over their own gains, putting serious economic issues on the back burner. Lack of industrial parks, training opportunities, soft-loan facilities and energy are key problems. Perhaps it is the reason that foreign investors are not ready to invest while local products could not find place in regional and international markets.

A number of local producers who attended a three-day exhibition here in Kabul criticized the government for not getting the required support. The domestic products displayed at the exhibition were less in numbers compared to the foreign products.

There were different items produced inside and outside the country. Turkish, Iranian and Pakistani products had captured most of the stalls besides a few Afghani booths. Food items, construction materials, different electric tools, cosmetics, washing powder, bleach, furniture, dry fruit, juice, local dairy products, handicrafts, jewelry and painting colors  were the main items displayed at the expo.

Although, the government in last 14 years has vowed to improve the domestic products, but the local items were less than the foreign-made products.

Despite that the public is keen to buy the local items when compared to the foreign goods but the government has not taken any interest in the domestic items, said an egg supplier.

Zabiullah Safian, a beekeeper from Nangarhar province, said that the neighboring countries do not let the Afghan products to be improved.

Honey producers at the neighboring countries have damaged the Afghan honey market bringing down the rates in order to capture markets in Afghanistan, he pointed out, adding that rates jump when the Afghan honey is scares in the markets.

High quality Afghan honey, per 500 gram, is sold at Afs250 while low quality Pakistani honey is cheaper which badly affects the Afghan markets because people do not purchase Afghan honey.

Therefore, the government should increase tariff on the foreign-made products so local products could compete in the markets, proposed Safi. He also suggested that the government should facilitate local producers. The government should decrease taxes on Afghan-made product and provide electricity at subsidized rate to industries. The businessmen pay monthly Afs15,000 Afghanis for electricity.

Safi said that Afghan bees are infected by Pakistani bees which is a big problem for the beekeepers. “Thus, the government shall initiate afforestation projects to improve the apiculture,” he said.

Marketing Officer of Mashal Dairy Production, a local company, Kefayatullah Safi said that his company produces different kinds of dairy products such as yogurt and milk for the past four years. However, very few know about his company because many people do not know about the locally produced products, and take Afghan products for foreign-made. Producers like Kefayatullah blame the government saying that the authorities have not supported the domestic products in the last 14 years. Foreign products replaced the local goods flooding Afghan markets.

Only these kinds of exhibitions can improve our business because the government does not provide the imperative support, added Safi. His products are expensive because he pays Afs60,000-90,000 per month for electricity.

Safi expressed his satisfaction over results of the exhibitions, adding that it can play key role in marketing his products. Mashal Dairy Company has invested one million US dollars and has branches in 15 provinces. The company is known for producing quality products, he claimed.

Head of the Benazir Saffron Company (BSC), Muhammad Nawab, said that Iran tries to damage Afghan-saffron exporting low quality saffron to Afghanistan. He said that Irani traders were exporting Afghan-saffron to European Union with their own and fake trademarks. Nawab asked the government to prevent Iranian saffron from making way to Afghan markets. Packing of saffron was one the challenges that he counted, saying that they use Iranian packing.

President of Afghan Protein Company, Sayed Habib Rasuli, termed inattention of the government toward problems of the local investors as main factor preventing local products from improvement. He said no high-ranking government official visited the exhibition to encourage the Afghan business community.

The ministries of the economy, commerce and industries, and agriculture livestock and irrigation being the relevant bodies responsible for promoting the Afghan products and strengthening the national economy had not taken any interest in the expo.

Lack of soft-loan facilities is another problem, disheartening the local investors. Fear of kidnapping also haunts businessmen, Rasuli mentioned. He said that many investors left Herat.

Minister of Finance,  Eklil Hakemi, said that in a long discussion with investors, traders and relevant organizations, a structure has been carved out to pave the ground for improvement of the domestic products. The scheme is going to be implemented in the near future, he said.

The deputy chief of Afghanistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Khan Jan Alikozai, told Afghanistan Times that he has no knowledge about the scheme drafted by the Ministry of Finance for improvement of the Afghan-made products.

He said that if customs duty was increased on the raw materials it would discourage the local industries. He suggested that the government should provide electricity on subsidized rate and establish industrial parks to support local investors.