Afghanistan has called for preferential access to European
and US markets to boost its agricultural exports which
would combat the opium trade ahead of a landmark summit
Ashraf Ghani, an Afghan government official and former
finance minister, told Emerging Markets in a telephone
interview: We need privileged market access to developed
markets in order to develop our agricultural markets.
Ghani has been appointed to draw up the agenda for the
mid-July summit in Kabul at which the international community
will assess Afghanistans progress on economic and
Our partners are key consumers of heroin and
have a responsibility to grant us preferential market access
for our agricultural products, Ghani said. This is
what we will push for at the summit.
Western efforts to eradicate opium-poppy cultivation have
failed. Afghan opium poppies supply a heroin market worth an
estimated $65 billion annually, that feeds 15 million addicts
concentrated in Europe, the US, Russia and Iran, a UN report
published in October estimated.
Ghani said alternative products could gain as opposed
to opium provided Afghan farmers could be incentivized by
stronger export demand. Growth of the rural economy would
garner stability in the conflict-ridden nation, Ghani
Boosting the agricultural markets in Afghanistan would
be a key driver of economic stability in the country and by
natural extension: domestic, regional and global
He said Afghanistan would appeal for new funds in order to
finance electricity and infrastructure investment. This would
increase the storage capacity of fruits and
vegetables produced by Afghan farmers and exported to the
global market place.
He said saffron is a viable candidate to replace
opium poppies, but added that Western agricultural expertise
was needed to advise on the production, processing and
marketing of Afghan agricultural products.
Ghani has been an outspoken critic of President Hamid
Karzais rule and was a presidential candidate in the
disputed election in August 2009. That election, which resulted
in Karzai being returned to office amid accusations of fraud,
sparked acrimony between the US and the Afghan government. This
triggered fresh doubts about the Afghan presidents
willingness to serve as an ally of the US in its drive to
combat Islamist forces in the country.
But Ghani said: The US-Afghanistan relationship is
back on a solid footing and whats in the past is in the
He said that for the first time since the
USs military intervention in the country following the
September 11 2001 attacks, there are sufficient resources
on the ground and a coherent security strategy in place that
will realize Afghanistans potential, referring to
USs recent troop surge.
Ghani said the representation of regional partners such as
Iran and Pakistan at the July summit was not a prerequisite for
its success, but added: We clearly want our international
coalition partners to work with regional powers.