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Thousands for traders in Afghanistan stare at uncertainty as Diwali exports of dry fruits and nuts choke after Taliban takeover

Prices of walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, figs, dried apricots from Afghanistan had doubled and tripled over the past few days.

Diwali has always brought a smile to thousands of traders in Afghanistan dealing in dry fruits and nuts such as walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, figs, dried apricots among others. This Diwali is different. They are staring at an uncertain future as trade between India and Afghanistan has come to a halt after the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Not just India. The Taliban led government is yet to get recognition by the world community.

Afghanistan has traditionally been India’s key supplier of these must-have items during the Diwali time.

While the demand for these peak during the Diwali time, which is before the winter sets in, consumption of dry fruits and nuts increases in India during the colder months.

In fact, India has remained one of Afghanistan’s top export destinations until recently. Apart from dry fruits and nuts, fresh fruits and saffron have also been coming in from the country.

“For India and its customers, life has not changed as these items are now being sourced from other places but for thousands of traders in Afghanistan, businesses has come to a standstill..they are left with no money,” an industry chamber insider who has been dealing with Central Asia told India Narrative.

In 2020-21, India’s total imports from Afghanistan were estimated at about Rs 3,700 crore of which fruits and nuts accounted for more than Rs 2,300 crore.

“This year, we have received nuts and dry fruits from other countries and what is noteworthy is that a large chunk of walnut has also come from Kashmir,” Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), the apex body of seven crore traders of India added.

According to Food Sector News, consumption of these items during the Diwali season alone accounts for almost 40 per cent of the annual consumption.

A report by International Nut and Dried Fruit (INC) published in 2017, the industry size in in India for these items was estimated at around Rs 15,000 crore. However it was expected to double and touch Rs 30,000 crore by 2020.

With changing lifestyle that has made Indians more health conscious, demand for nuts has increased significantly. “We have been noticing a shift in consumer behaviour…the demand for such items is now throughout the year and not limited to just Diwali time or the winter months,” a shopkeeper in Gurugram said.