23 February 2019

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Thursday December 13, 2018

Kabul (BNA) Starting before dawn has even broken, Afghanistan's army of saffron pickers shift their way across sun-baked fields to pluck brightly the coloured crocuses that are providing the country's farmers with a new means of income.
The delicate pistil of the flower has for centuries been used in cooking around the world and because of its relatively high price has been dubbed "red gold" by those who rely on its cultivation.
Joma Khan is one of the 156,000 seasonal workers who help harvest the spice, earning about $1 an hour.
"We start our field work before sunrise and each of us can collect about four to five kilograms of saffron flower," the 16-year-old said. The harvest is then sent to factories where gloved workers remove the red pistil, made up of the three stigma that when dried constitute the spice.
Authorities struggling to wean farmers off the highly profitable opium poppy trade are hoping to use the spice as an attractive alternative.
And the results are looking positive, thanks to billions of dollars of international aid.
The saffron harvest hit 13 tonnes this year, compared with a tone in 2013, according to agriculture ministry spokesman Akbar Rostami.
Cultivation requires little water, meaning it has not been heavily impacted by the historic drought currently threatening nearly three million Afghans with famine.
It has even intensified in some drought-hit areas, especially in the northwestern province of Herat on the border with Iran and Turkmenistan. Official figures show saffron cultivation has increased to 6,200 hectares of land in 2018, up 21 percent on last year.
However, there is still a way to go, with 263,000 hectares currently given over to poppy production. And while the saffron sector generated $35 billion in 2017, opium made an incredible $1.4 billion.
Iran remains the world's largest saffron producer, capturing nearly 90 percent of the global market with 400 tones annually. Meanwhile, nearly 90 percent of the opium harvested on the planet still comes from Afghanistan.
Prices for the spice have also fallen, from more than $900 at the start of the year to $660 now, due in part to mafias who illegally import Iranian saffron and flood the market, Rostami said.
Nevertheless, the increased cultivation of the spice is being seen as a positive sign.
The spice is being exported to 17 countries through new air corridors, mainly to China, India, and the Gulf countries, and to a lesser extent to the European Union and North America, says the agriculture ministry
"Afghanistan's saffron, based on its organic nature, it is better than other saffron in the world," claimed Abdul Shukoor Ahrari, director of Tila-e-Surkh Afghan ("Afghan Red Gold"), one of the country's main processing sites.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018 Kabul, (BNA) The National Procurement Commission’s (NPC) 173rd session was held with Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah on the chair here yesterday and approved 19 billion Afghanis, a statement from the office of the president said. According to the statement, the approved contracts included procurement and installation of Radar systems, reconstruction of surrounding Archi irrigation canals in Kunduz province, reconstruction of Charikar roads, reconstruction of building, electricity and sewer system of Paktia’s governor house, construction of wall related to Hamid Karzai International Airport, procurement of oil for maintenance of Salang Pass, reconstruction of Domanda Mangal-Qalandar road of Khost province, recruitment of evaluator for new Salang Pass’s advisory project, construction of 27 police checkpoints in Ghazni province, procurement of essential for Ministry of Interior’s vehicles, procurement of meat for 101 Asmayee military Breshna Sherkat’s procurement proposal for purchasing of essentials to Ghorband 20 KV electricity project. The NPC session also approved Ministry of Defense proposals for price corrections of some projects and extending the deadline of the maintenance projects for border and civil order forces but instructed the ministry to process the needed medicines through state to state projects, the statement said. The session rejected other three projects related to Kabul Municipality on increasing the prices of three types of oil, Ministry of Interior’s procurement of non-good items and construction of Chah-Anjeer-Gereshk road due to technical issues. The NPC meeting also discussed the Real Time Data Management project of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, saying the project would be approved if the ministry’s concern on the issue has been removed, the statement added. Meanwhile the session approved National Procurement Authority’s request for transportation of vehicles from Hairatan port to Kabul city, which was earlier agreed with Uzbekistan. The meeting was attended by international and national observers, representatives of Parliament, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, SIGAR and Resolute Support Mission, the statement concluded.

Monday December 10, 2018

Kabul (BNA) In presence of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah contracts were signed for construction of Khush Tepa water canals and electricity generating as well as transmission of electricity line from Nangarhar to Kunar and from Ghazi to Paktika province and construction of substations in Kunar and Paktika provinces, BNA reported. Contracts were signed by acting minister of finance Dr. Hamayoun Qayoumi and minister of agriculture, irrigation and livestock Nasir Ahmad Durani with US ambassador, deputy director for USAID, director of the Asian Development Bank and chairman of Breshna Shirkat. Khush Tepa irrigation and electricity generating project has 270 km length and would irrigate 500 thousand of acres of land. Ministries of energy and water and agriculture, irrigation and livestock as well as the national environment protection agency would have shares in the project. The Nangarhar electricity transmission line to Kunar and construction of a substation would be completed within two years and would benefit 26 thousand of families in these provinces. The projects would cost 60 million USD and would be financed by Asian Development Bank. Meanwhile, the electricity transmission line from Ghazni to Paktika and construction of substation in Paktika would cost 60 million USD and would be also financed by the Asian Development Bank, the project would be completed in two years and would benefit 30 thousand of families.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Kabul (BNA) Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah met yesterday with a number of national traders and relevant officials to discuss problems of Afghan traders.
In the meeting, Afghan traders importing gas were complaining that they are facing with double treatment in the country’s port, saying that their gas tankers have been stopped in the country’s ports for the pretext of being low-quality.  They asserted that traders have purchased gas from Turkmenistan and the company sending gas to Afghanistan has this time sent low-quality gas, therefore, their tankers have been stopped, asking for addressing the problems through legal channel.
After hearing problems of Afghan traders, the country’s chief executive said that any kind of double treatment with national traders was unacceptable and the issue would be addressed after overall reviews.
Chief executive instructed relevant organs to dispatch a delegation to Turkmenistan as soon as possible to address the problems.

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