Potato Farmers in Bamiyan Stare at a Loss

There are currently no specific statistics on potato products in Bamiyan. Farmers and those who buy and sell this crop say that the potato harvest in Bamiyan has dropped significantly this year compared to the past. The Taliban Department of Agriculture in Bamiyan province does not provide accurate information on the amount of potato harvested.

Qayamuddin Fallah, a local potato trader in Bamiyan, says farmers and landowners in the province are dissatisfied with their agricultural yields this year. According to Fallah, this year, due to bad weather and drought, the potato harvest in Bamiyan has been reduced to half. This local potato trader informs that 40 to 45 bags have been collected this year from a piece of land. This is while 95 to 100 sacks of potatoes used to be harvested from the same land. Every year, he buys potatoes from some Bamiyan peasants and sells them in Kabul and other cities.

According to the local trader, in addition to a reduction in potato harvest, the price of this major crop has also dropped slightly in the market. The fall in potato prices this season is not good news for the farmers of Bamiyan. The only important crop of farmers in Bamiyan province is potatoes, from which the farmers have not been able to obtain productive results this year.

Mukhtar, a farmer in central Bamiyan, says the potato crop this year has been hit hard by drought and water shortages. Although this farmer has harvested fewer potatoes than in previous years, he seems satisfied. He adds that although the drought was severe, his yields were “relatively” good. However, the market is not in the interest of the peasants.

According to the farmer, potatoes do not have a stable market this year, and unlike in the past, traders buy their products at a very low price. According to him, local traders buy every 7 kilograms of potatoes for 60 to 70 Afghanis and sell them in the markets of Kabul and other provinces. According to the farmers, the best Bamiyan potatoes, in terms of quality and taste, were sold for 68 Afghanis per kilogram this year, which is the lowest price in the market compared to previous years. Last year, every 7 kilograms of potatoes was sold for 110 to 120 Afghanis after being collected from the farm. However, farmers are reluctant to sell their products at a low price.

It is worth noting that most of the Bamiyan potatoes are exported to Pakistan annually. But in the early spring, it re-entered the country’s markets and was sold at a very high price. The lack of standard storage to store potatoes and other agricultural and horticultural products is a major problem for farmers and gardeners across the country, especially in Bamiyan. In recent years, some small potato storages have been built by the Ministry of Agriculture in the province, but farmers say that was not enough.

Poverty Threatens the Lives of People in Bamiyan

Potato buyers say Bamiyan may face a catastrophe this winter; Because the peasants did not get good outcomes from their cultivation. They add that the people’s economy is below zero and winter is ahead. Residents of Bamiyan are calling on aid agencies and the international community to help the poor and prevent a possible catastrophe caused by hunger and cold in the coming winter.

Earlier, some civil society activists in Bamiyan had warned that a humanitarian catastrophe would occur in Bamyan next winter if domestic and foreign aid organizations did not act as soon as possible. A former local official in Bamiyan had previously expressed concern about the high number of poor families in the province in an interview with Hasht-e Subh Daily. He also said that this year the problem of drought has been added to it.

According to statistics released by the Bamiyan local government in the past, more than 60 percent of the province’s population lives below the poverty line. The United Nations recently warned in a report that by 2022, 97 percent of Afghanistan’s citizens may be below the poverty line.

Although farmers in Bamiyan are dissatisfied with the potato crop, Zabihullah Rabdost, the Taliban’s director of agriculture for Bamyan province, said the crop was “relatively” good, with no accurate statistics on how the crop was harvested. Regarding the collection of tithes and zakat from the peasants, Rabdost also said that the Taliban collect one-tenth of every 140-kilogram potatoes.

Potato is one of the most important agricultural products in Bamiyan, where farmers harvest more than 300 tons of potatoes annually. Last year, potato production in the province reached 380,000 metric tons, the highest figure. There are no exact statistics this year. However, local potato farmers and traders say the crop has been cut in half. According to official statistics, more than 80% of Bamiyan residents are engaged in agriculture and livestock. But the existence of drought has greatly affected their crop yields.