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Saffron exports to India surpass $19 million mark

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(Last Updated On: April 8, 2021)

Afghanistan’s saffron export to India topped $19.08 million last year, indicating an 80 percent increase over the past five years.

In 2019, Afghanistan exported $17.38 million worth of saffron to India.

In an effort to further promote Afghan saffron trade in India, the Afghanistan Commercial Attaché office in Mumbai, in association with USAID and the US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP), and Indian Chamber of International Business (ICIB) hosted the Afghan Saffron Promotion Virtual Conference on Wednesday.

“USAID, in collaboration with the US Department of Commerce and the US Department of Agriculture, is working with Afghan and Indian private and public sectors to increase saffron supply, reduce trade costs, and better serve Indian markets and consumers,” said USAID/Afghanistan Mission Director Tina Dooley-Jones.

“Together, we are working to improve farming techniques so Afghan farmers can sell more, high-quality saffron while adhering to important safety guidelines,” she said.

The event was attended by dignitaries from World Trade Center Mumbai, Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries, and Kabul and Herat Chambers of Commerce & Investment, the Afghan Embassy in India said in a statement.

Manpreet Singh, President of the Indian Chamber of International Business said: “The market opportunity in India for saffron and Afghanistan is wide open. I know that Afghan saffron is winning international quality and taste awards. The price is also right. The only problem is that consumers do not know this.”

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World Bank works to redirect frozen funds for humanitarian aid only

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2021)

The World Bank is finalizing a proposal to deliver up to $500 million from a frozen Afghanistan aid fund to humanitarian agencies, people familiar with the plans told Reuters, but it leaves out tens of thousands of public sector workers and remains complicated by U.S. sanctions.

Board members will meet informally on Tuesday to discuss the proposal, hammered out in recent weeks with U.S. and U.N. officials, to redirect the funds from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which has a total of $1.5 billion, Reuters reported.

Afghanistan’s 39 million people face a collapsing economy, a winter of food shortages and growing poverty three months after the the former government collapsed.

Afghan experts said the aid will help, but big gaps remain, including how to get the funds into Afghanistan without exposing the financial institutions involved to U.S. sanctions, and the lack of focus on state workers, the sources said.

The money will go mainly to addressing urgent health care needs in Afghanistan, where less than 7% of the population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, they said.

For now, it will not cover salaries for teachers and other government workers, a policy that the experts say could hasten the collapse of Afghanistan’s public education, healthcare and social services systems.

They warn that hundreds of thousands of workers, who have been unpaid for months, could stop showing up for their jobs and join a massive exodus from the country.

The World Bank will have no oversight of the funds once transferred into Afghanistan, said one of the sources familiar with the plans. A U.S. official stressed that UNICEF and other recipient agencies would have “their own controls and policies in place.”

“The proposal calls for the World Bank to transfer the money to the U.N. and other humanitarian agencies, without any oversight or reporting, but it says nothing about the financial sector, or how the money will get into the country,” the source said, calling U.S. sanctions a major constraint.

While the U.S. Treasury has provided “comfort letters” assuring banks that they can process humanitarian transactions, concern about sanctions continues to prevent passage of even basic supplies, including food and medicine, the source added.

“We’re driving the country into the dust,” said the source. Crippling sanctions and failure to take care of public sector workers will “create more refugees, more desperation and more extremism.”

A State Department spokesperson confirmed that Washington is working with the World Bank and other donors on how to use the funds, including potentially paying those who work in “critical positions such as healthcare workers and teachers.”

The spokesperson said the U.S. government remains committed to meeting the  critical needs of the  Afghan people, “especially across health, nutrition, education, and food security sectors … but international aid is not a silver bullet.”

Established in 2002 and administered by the World Bank, the ARTF was the largest financing source for Afghanistan’s civilian budget, which was more than 70% funded by foreign aid.

The World Bank suspended disbursements after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) takeover. At the same time, Washington stopped supplying U.S. dollars to the country and joined in freezing some $9 billion in Afghan central bank assets and halting financial assistance.

One major problem is the lack of a mechanism to monitor disbursements of funds in Afghanistan to ensure Taliban leaders and fighters do not access them, a third source said.

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Export of Afghanistan’s talc resumes: Industrial Association

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2021)

Afghanistan Industrial Association said Monday that Kabul recently exported 500 tons of talc powder to a number of countries including China, Spain and the UK.

Abdul Jabbar Safi, the head of the association, said: “Afghanistan has recently exported talc to Pakistan, Turkey, India, China, Spain, and the UK. Exports have resumed and we want to expand our exports.”

The association meanwhile also called for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to focus on the mining sector and provide facilities for the extraction of minerals in order to boost investment.

They also called on government to establish new policies around mining, also to boost investment in the sector.

Safi meanwhile said that since the mid-August takeover by the IEA, “illegal extractions of mines, as well as smuggling, have been prevented.”

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TAPI project suspended in Afghanistan until situation ‘stabilizes’

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(Last Updated On: November 27, 2021)

The implementation of the TAPI (Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India) project has been suspended until the situation in Afghanistan stabilizes, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan told Russia’s TASS news agency this week.

“The work on the TAPI, as well as on other projects like CASA-1000 (power transmission system project), is on hold due to the situation in Afghanistan.

“According to the information that we have, at the moment no one is working on this project in Afghanistan as well as on other projects. Many people have been evacuated, and representatives of the World Bank are no longer represented in Afghanistan,” Khan told TASS.

“After stabilizing the situation, we will be able to return to the issue of construction. But for now, the project has been suspended until the situation is cleared up,” he added.

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