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Pomegranates Make Lucrative Alternative Crop

In order to support the alternative crop development plan of Afghanistan’s national drug control strategy, President Hamid Karzai is encouraging Afghan farmers to plant pomegranates. Pomegranates have been grown in Afghanistan for centuries, and before the Soviet invasion were a major cash-crop in Afghanistan’s booming agricultural sector. The fruit is renowned for both its sweet taste and its medicinal properties. The fruit itself is claimed to treat diseases, such as hepatitis and blood pressure problems, and the seed is considered effective against certain stomach ailments. The inspiration for this particular alternative crop owes just as much to Afghan literature and culture as to the Afghan economy, as pomegranates are a familiar metaphor in Afghan poetry, drawn upon to invoke beauty.

The President admits a long and difficult transition lies ahead, as the market for opium remains more lucrative than that for fruits and vegetables. However, about 20,000 tons of Kandahar’s pomegranates are exported to Pakistan, where they are repacked and exported to Gulf countries. Increased production of pomegranates will complement Afghanistan’s comprehensive National Drug Control Strategy, which combines alternative crop development with eradication, law enforcement, alternative livelihoods for farmers, strengthening regional cooperation, and judicial reform.

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