The collapse of the Afghanistan government and the return of the Taliban is already making itself felt in Bengaluru. With trade between India and Afghanistan coming to a halt, several varieties of dry fruits and spices are in short supply, and prices have skyrocketed ahead of the festive season.
The price of Mamra almonds from Afghanistan, which were selling for ₹2,100 per kg in July, shot up to ₹3,800 as on August 22. The price of pine nuts and apricots has almost doubled, while Kabul black grapes, which were selling for ₹38-400 per kg a month ago, are now going for ₹780-800. The prices of dry fruit and spice imports have gone up in the range of 60 - 80%, if not more since July.
Mohammed Idrees Choudhary, a prominent dry fruit trader in the city, who regularly imports dry fruits and spices from Afghanistan, said there were several hurdles put up for the movement of consignments as the Taliban occupied more territories over the last six weeks, but all trade completely stopped once Kabul fell on August 15. “Most of our high quality almonds, black grapes, pine nuts, anjeer, apricots and spices such as saffron, cloves and elaichi come from Afghanistan,” he said.
The shortage comes even as more people are consuming dry fruits, “to boost immunity during the pandemic” and amidst Muharram and Deepavali season, said Javeed Sait, another dry fruit trader. “Other dry fruits like cashew nuts, pista and dates are sourced from India, Iran and the Middle East respectively and hence its prices are not affected,” he added.
The situation is reminiscent of the last time the Taliban took over the country from 1996-2001. Our experience all those years ago may also hold the key to tide us over this crisis for the sector, traders said. “From past experience, we have seen that the dry fruits trade is very lucrative, and India is a big market for the Taliban to let go. We hope trade will soon restart soon,” Mr. Sait said.
However, trade between the two countries may also be linked to whether India recognises the Taliban government. “During their previous tenure, India did not recognise the Taliban initially and that hit trade badly. But then too traders found ingenious ways which we hope will sustain us again,” Mr. Choudhary said.
“During the Taliban’s previous reign, we used to get traders from Afghanistan to sell their produce to their counterparts in Pakistan or Tajikistan. They in turn would import spices and dry fruits to India. When relations between India and Pakistan were tense, traders from Afghanistan and Tajikistan would step in. However, though this ensures that supply is not disrupted, it adds to costs, he explained.
For now, traders have no choice but to adopt a wait-and-watch approach.