Wheat Smuggling to Pakistan Amid Impending Famine and Food Scarcity in Afghanistan
Since August last year, Pakistan – a country that has played a key role in supporting the Taliban – has turned into a marketplace for smuggled resources from Afghanistan. These resources include weapons and machinery left over from US forces, natural resources, such as coal and other materials, antiquities and even food and wheat that has been provided by other nations to Afghanistan.
Sources in the west of the country report that wheat smuggling is still going on despite the Taliban having issued an order, banning wheat smuggling to Pakistan. According to Farah residents, despite the improvement in wheat yields this year, the price of five kilograms of wheat has reached 220 AFN. The residents warn that if the smuggling of wheat to Pakistan continues, the price of one ounce of wheat – five kilograms – will reach about 300 AFN. Afghan wheat is being smuggled into Pakistan while citizens strongly criticize and rise concerns over the high price flour in the country. A bag of flour is currently sold for about 3,000 AFN in Kabul market. Earlier, people called the Taliban’s order a media propaganda and said the Taliban do not and cannot control the smuggling of wheat to Pakistan.
Following reports of widespread wheat smuggling to Pakistan, members of the Taliban leadership instructed their subordinates to stop smuggling the crop abroad. The Taliban’s Finance Minister, Hedayatullah Badri, sent a message to the regime-controlled customs, stating that not a single grain of wheat should leave the country. Sources in the west of the country now report that wheat smuggling to Pakistan has continued and not cares about his instructions. According to Farah residents, dozens of trucks are loaded daily in wheat markets and shipped to Pakistan.
Farid, a farmer in Farah, told Hasht-e Subh that despite the better yields of wheat in the province, its price has been rising day by day. According to him, in the last two weeks, the price of one ounce of wheat has risen from 200 to 230 AFN. Being concerned about the illicit smuggling of wheat to Pakistan, he said that the price of an ounce of wheat could reach around 300 ANF in the very near future if the smuggling is not controlled.
Farah residents also complain about this situation. According to them, smugglers collect wheat daily from the province’s markets and, after loading it, smuggle it to Pakistan. The residents stated that many trucks load wheat in public every day, but the Taliban group is not taking any action to control or stop it.
At the same time, shopkeepers in Farah are worried about the current situation due to decreased volume of wheat in the markets and increasing price of it in the market. According to a shopkeeper in the province, one ounce of wheat was being sold last year for 120 AFN to 130 AFN, but now its price has doubled.
The value of wheat is rising while farmers are talking about increasing wheat yields in the province. According to them, the land and conditions for growing wheat in Farah are suitable, and for this reason, the peasants are encouraged to cultivate it. A farmer in Farah told Hasht-e Subh that he cultivates wheat in his farm fields every year and, unlike the previous years, he is satisfied with the yields this year. According to the farmer, unlike last year, when the harvest was spent on his family, this year, despite completing his expenses and adjusting his household expenses, he has sold a large amount of it in the market.
However, according to him, the increase in wheat yields in this province and other provinces is accompanied by concerns about its smuggling to Pakistan and other countries. He added that as crop yields and sales in the markets increase, so does the daily price of wheat and much of it disappears in the markets.
The increase in wheat smuggling to Pakistan is being reported; while, Taliban group at the Ministry of Agriculture, Afghanistan has reported the urgent need of two million tonnes of wheat this year. According to the World Food Program (WFP), millions of people in Afghanistan are at risk of severe hunger. It has also been unable to meet its budget for Afghanistan due to the recent conflict in Ukraine and the needs of some other countries, and has cut its plans by about 50 percent. Earlier, people had said that the Taliban either does not what to control or can not control the smuggling of wheat to Pakistan, contrary to their claims. Some citizens believe that even a number of Taliban commanders are involved in and managing the smuggling process.