Market assessment finds little home-grown food
ISAF JC: KABUL, Afghanistan – The bazaar in Asadabad, the capital of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, is a noisy, chaotic stretch of shops and stands that extends the length of the city’s main thoroughfare.
There are many items for sale, including fresh fruits and vegetables, bolts of colorful cloth, finished clothing and electronics. There are also poultry stands that will slaughter and quarter a chicken for a customer on the spot.
Members of the Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team patrolled through the bazaar Oct. 17 and assessed the market. They noticed that very few of the products originate in Kunar province.
“We were mainly there to get an idea how the local market works and find out what’s available at what kind of prices,” Birgy said. “You could get about anything you needed there, but most of it got there from somewhere else.”
A poultry stand toward the end of the bazaar exemplified the issue. Mohammed Amin, the stand’s owner, explained that the few chickens grown in Kunar were usually produced by individual households, and their owners wanted a higher price for their chickens than large-scale producers in Pakistan and Nangarhar province. The net result, according to Amin, was that he simply could not buy chickens locally for resale.
“It’s not good. The chickens here all come from other places,” Amin said. “We want to buy locally grown chickens. Right now, if prices are good or bad, we have to buy from the guys in Pakistan or Jalalabad because we have no local source.”
The same was true of many fruits, vegetables, breads, candies and finished products in the bazaar. The issue is an important one, because selling imported goods does not generate the same level of economic activity as the production and sale of local agricultural products. Indeed, boosting local agricultural production is a top priority of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Birgy pointed out that because most farmers in Kunar province operate on a subsistence basis, most do not have enough left after harvest to take to market. But Birgy was also convinced there is more to the story.
“Honestly, we still have a lot to learn about how this market works,” Birgy said. “We’re not going to get it all figured out in one visit. We’re going to have to come back several times over a long period of time.”