New Delhi: Afghanistan is one of the biggest dry fruit exporters in the world and has been driving the dry fruit business in Khari Baoli, the biggest wholesale dry fruit and spices markets in India, for centuries.
Amid disrupted imports from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country, the dry fruit prices have witnessed a surge in Delhi causing concern to the traders of the Khari Baoli market.
Khari Baoli in Chandni Chowk is a Mughal-era market popular for the wholesale trade of spices and dry fruits. For centuries, the market has attracted traders from all corners of the world.
Prices rise, sales fall
Speaking to ANI, Ashish Goyal, a trader whose family has been importing dry fruits from Afghanistan for four generations, lamented the decreasing sales due to inflated prices.
"My family has been importing dry fruits from Kabul for the past 80 years. But now that all kinds of imports from Afghanistan have dried up. It will be problematic for us if the imports remain closed for a long time. We will have to look at some other options," said Goyal.
He informed that many dry fruits like figs, almonds, apricots and raisins are primarily imported from Afghanistan.
"Because of the current situation there, the prices have increased by more than 25-30 per cent. Our business has been affected a lot because of the problem in Afghanistan and we are very worried," he said.
"The people are either avoiding buying dry fruits or buying in small quantities because of the skyrocketing prices. The sales have been affected a lot because of this," the trader added.
Another wholesaler Santosh Soni informed that the prices of dry fruits imported from Afghanistan have increased by Rs 200 per kg to Rs 400 per kg within days.
"If the situation does not improve soon, then the disrupted imports might affect our supply chain, which will further affect our monthly budget. Because of the increased prices, many customers are buying fewer amounts of dry fruits," he said.
Effects of Taliban takeover
The violence has dramatically surged in Afghanistan after the US drawdown started in May. In the build-up to the August 31 deadline, the Taliban managed to seize the majority of the territory and key border crossings.
India’s imports from Afghanistan were pegged at about ₹3,700 crore in 2020-21, with fruits and nuts accounting for more than ₹2,300 crore, according to the Union ministry of commerce’s trade database. Some estimates suggest that up to 85% of India’s dry fruits come from Afghanistan, and the hundreds of traders and importers in Khari Baoli, like Singh, import the bulk of it.
For the last one month, there has been a severe disruption in the supply of goods from Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to India, leading to a shortage of almonds, raisins, figs and raisins, among other dry fruits.
In the absence of new stock, suppliers are selling the old stock at higher rates, taking advantage of the increased demands.
History of Khari Baoli
The market came up around the Fatehpuri Masjid, which was built in 1650. During Shah Jahan's reign it came to be known as Khari Baoli (from Baoli, meaning step well, and Khari or Khara, meaning salty) from a saline water stepwell used for animals and for bathing. Today there is no trace of either the well or the gateway here.
Since the Mughal period, Khari Baoli in Chandni Chowk has been a key commercial centre, attracting dry fruit traders and merchants from all corners of the country and abroad, according to a report in Hindustan Times.
The Pathan trader sold their goods in Chandni Chowk, said Lalit Kumar Gupta, former general secretary, Kirana Committee Delhi, an association of dry fruit and spice traders in Khari Baoli.
An engraved stone on the wall of its first-floor office in the crowded market says it was formed in 1906, which makes it the oldest traders association in Chandni Chowk. The Pathans, who have historically been engaged in the dry fruit business in Afghanistan, continue to rule the dry fruit trade with India.
After Partition, many big dry fruit traders in Peshawar and Quetta — the other two major centres of the dry fruit business in undivided India — who had been doing business with traders in Afghanistan, shifted to Khari Baoli.
In 1952, these traders formed the Indo-Afghan Chambers of Commerce, which today has over 250 members, including some of the oldest and biggest dry fruit importers in the market.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)