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Afghan farmers to replace poppies with pomegranates

Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s poppy-produced heroin supply, but that is starting to change. The industry currently employs about 3 million Afghans, but new incentives encouraging farmers to switch to crops like saffron, pomegranate and nuts are helping change the agricultural landscape.

Trade routes are opening up for Afghan farmers, who are being offered grants to help set up new farms with legal crops. The goal is to replace the poppy fields across Afghanistan by pomegranate plantations.

“The agricultural sector is the backbone of our economy and it is playing a vital role in our nation’s development, but there some serious challenges,” said Nasir Durrani, the Afghan Minister of Agriculture. “Insecurity in our country has fed the growth of the poppy and it is why farmers have been growing it for international markets. We have to find alternatives for these farmers that provide a product of equal or greater value, and we are beginning to do that.”

A hectare of grapes can yield about US$ 11,000, whereas a poppy farmer can expect to earn just US$ 4,500 from his illegal crops, and also face the risk of having his plantation destroyed by government enforcers.

According to, in 2017, the US AID funded Commercial Horticulture and Agriculture Marketing Program helped Afghanistan export 30,000 metric tonnes of its home grown produce. Exports of fresh and dried fruits, nuts and spices have almost doubled since 2014.

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