Building Afghanistan

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A Juicy Tale

Helmand is still one of the most difficult operating environments in Afghanistan. Despite the security challenges, local entrepreneurs in the country’s largest province display a remarkable sense of resilience, helped by the PDM-Helmand project, which is accredited with having facilitated almost $150 million in contracts awarded to Helmandi companies by international buyers, thereby creating thousands of local jobs. Now, meet entrepreneurs who are building the Helmandi marketplace!

These stories were written by Nooruddin Bakhshi. He is an Afghan journalist who has worked for many years with The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Times. He has also worked on several NGO communication projects. He is based in Kabul.

Two-and-a-half years after its grand opening, the Omaid Bahar Fruit Processing factory in Kabul still looks brand new. The Italian and Swedish processing equipment still has its shine, and each of the factory’s buildings looks spotless. A lesser-known fact is that this factory produces tens of thousands of liters of fruit juice during Afghanistan’s spring, summer and autumn seasons. The company became the first, and only, fruit juice concentrate processing plant in Afghanistan and is helping to provide a long term viable market for farmers across the country.

Pomegranates, a popular crop in southern Afghanistan, especially in Helmand, are trucked up to Kabul where they are deposited in one of nine large cool rooms. Factory manager, Qasim Hamidi walks the factory floor proudly showing how the pomegranates are sorted, washed, crushed and then put on a long journey through metal pipes and several other stages of preparing the fruit juice for packaging. It takes about 12 hours before the juice concentrate is packed into sealable one-liter cartons. It is a process designed to meet international standards for food processing and shipping.

Turning peaches, melons, apples, mulberries and pomegranates, all of which are grown inside Afghanistan, into fruit juices was usually done outof-country. Picked fruits were exported to Pakistan or Iran to be processed, packaged and imported back into Afghanistan. The Omaid Bahar factory has removed the need for neighbouring state’s involvement, which keeps more jobs and more money within Afghanistan. The company’s brand, Fruit Plus is sold both within Afghanistan and abroad. It is exported to the United Kingdom, the United States, Pakistan, Russia, as well as several other central Asian countries. Next time you’re out grocery shopping, keep an eye out for Fruit Plus!

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