An embattled Afghanistan is sending ripples through the city’s dry fruit market. Since the Taliban takeover, dry fruit prices in the city markets have soared, plunging traders and consumers into economic strain.
According to city traders, dry fruits including figs, apricots, green raisins and ‘mamra’ variety of almonds are brought to Kolkata via importers from Delhi through Wagah border. The dry fruits traders’ association in Machhua Mandi, which has about 50 members, Kolkata consumes a huge quantity of these nuts. On average, the city has a requirement of about two tonnes of dry fruits daily, according to Khurshid Akram, a senior member of the association.
However, due to the ongoing crisis in the land-locked country, the prices of the nuts have climbed by Rs 200 to Rs300 in the wholesale markets, whose ripple effect is being felt at the retail market with a spike in prices of each kind of dry fruit by Rs400 to Rs450.
“Before the turmoil, we used to get at least seven to eight consignments of dry fruits from Afghanistan every month,” informed an eminent dry fruit trader in Machhua Mandi. “However, since the last two weeks, the supply has been badly hit resulting in soaring prices. The hike in return has brought a reduction in sales. Earlier, during this time of Muharram, we used to get around three consignments of these dry fruits for sale.
However, following higher rates, the sale in the last few days has slumped by almost 40 per cent,” added the city’s one of the oldest dry fruit traders. “Right now, the exporters’ payment is the main concern to us. Import and export from Afghanistan is suspended as roads of the Pakistan border are closed,” said an official source of Federation of Indian Export Organisation, Eastern Region.
The city traders, hoping the crisis to end soon, said that if the situation does not improve soon, the prices of the dry fruits in Kolkata markets could touch a new high. Talking to The Statesman today, Gautam Mallick, executive member of The Kolkata Fruit Merchant Association has informed that already the prices of almond and walnut have increased by about 20 per cent since the past few days.
“We have a current dry fruit stock of about 15 days only as fruits are perishable items and can not be stored for a long time and once the stocks are exhausted the prices will further soar in the coming days,” added Mallick.
Spices that are imported from Afghanistan include shah jeera, raw thing (asafoetida) and saffron whose prices are expected to spike. Dry fruits which are imported from Pakistan include dry grapes (raisins), fig (anjeer), walnut, pistachios, almond, apricot and they have already become more expensive.