Afghanistan gets helps in rebuilding agriculture

Dave Frey is using his 27 years of experience as the administrator of the Kansas Wheat Commission to help the people of Afghanistan.

Frey, 54, left for Kabul three months ago to serve as the director of the Grain Industry Alliance. The agency is a subcontractor of the taxpayer-funded Rebuilding Agricultural Markets in Afghanistan Program.

The country plans to import a half-million tons of wheat and flour, most coming from Pakistan. Plans are to build a center to market grain, including a flour mill in Kunduz. But his focus in Afghanistan extends beyond wheat.

"We also will be expanding and building marketing centers for grapes," he said. "Most people don't realize that Afghanistan was a great grower of table grapes."

Since Frey arrived in May, projects have included building a fresh fruit exports marketing center in Habib City, west of Kandahar. And cold storage facilities are being built to make prolonged storage of grapes and other fresh fruits a possibility.

Frey, who expects to be in Afghanistan at least through June 2006, soon will be joined by his family.

His wife, Debbie Frey, will be arriving as soon as their Manhattan real estate properties are sold. His 15-year-old son, Andrew, will attend a school for international students. Frey said security concerns make day-to-day living challenging.

"You have to be discreet and follow certain guidelines, and stay out of peoples' way," he said. Still, Frey said he hasn't felt unsafe during his time in the county - thanks in part to daily e-mails from a non-governmental group that advises Americans of dangers and areas to avoid. "They'll tell us don't go out tonight," Frey said. "I usually stay close to home."