Trade with Afghanistan in limbo as exporters look for alternative markets

August 9, 2021 - 15:13

TEHRAN – Following the recent unrests in Afghanistan, Iran’s exports to the country have fallen significantly and Iranian exporters should look for alternative markets to replace the neighboring country, the head of the Iran-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce said on Sunday.

According to Hossein Salimi, the country which was the top export destination for non-oil Iranian commodities has fallen to second place recently, the portal of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (TCCIMA) reported.

Afghanistan accounted for 11 percent of Iran's total non-oil exports in the first quarter of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21-June 21), during which the country imported 296,000 tons of agricultural and food products worth $134 million from Iran, the official said.

Tomatoes, apples, potatoes, sweets, and fruit juice concentrate were the top exported items to the neighboring country, according to Salimi.

He noted that the deployment of Taliban militants in provinces and cities adjacent to the Iranian border has left Iranian exporters unsure about sending goods to the country.

Salimi had previously said that exports from Iran to Afghanistan have declined more than 85 percent due to the increasing tensions in the country.

"With the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan, the number of trucks carrying Iranian goods to this country has decreased from 100 trucks every day to two or three trucks per day,” he said on August 6.

According to Salimi, Iranian exports to Afghanistan over the past two weeks have been only 15 percent of the figure for the same period in the previous year.

“When turmoil or conflict arises in a country, the first area that will suffer is that country's economy and trade,” he said, adding: “Unfortunately, the situation is so bad that at the moment it is not easy to predict what awaits us. We still do not have an accurate estimate of the amount of damage inflicted on Iranian traders. We have to see how long this situation will last.”

In response to the question that if the Taliban finally takes control and peace is restored, the economic relations between Iran and Afghanistan will continue in the same way or not? Salimi said: “In any case, the needs of that country will not be eliminated. Any group that gains power in Afghanistan, the country will still need food and construction materials and so on and their best option [for meeting those needs] would be Iran.”

Underlining the probable decline in the two countries’ trade in case of the ongoing conflict, Salimi said: “If this situation continues for even another month, we will not reach 50 percent of our normal export volume to Afghanistan this year."

According to the official, Iran has targeted $2.7 billion of exports to Afghanistan in the current Iranian calendar year (started on March 21), but considering the current situation realizing this goal will not be possible.

EF/MA

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