A British fruit juice firm has vowed to overcome transport and paperwork difficulties after striking a pioneering deal to buy £3m worth of pomegranates from Afghanistan.
Pomegreat, a Gloucestershire-based company that sells pomegranate juice to UK supermarkets, has made a commitment to purchase 500 tons of concentrate and 500 tons of fresh fruit from Omaid Bahar Ltd, Afghanistan’s first fruit processing facility.
It is a business deal that Adam Pritchard, chief executive of Pomegreat, says he has long been waiting to achieve.
“The Afghan pomegranate is the best in the world and in ten years working with pomegranates from many countries, I have never previously encountered juice of the quality Omaid Bahar is offering,” he said.
“My long-term aim is for pomegranates and other fruit juices from Afghanistan to become a valuable and valid commodity that can be exported around the world.”
Pomegreat says the fruit grown in Afghanistan is of the highest quality available
Mr Pritchard acknowledges that the decision to source fruit from Afghanistan is not without its difficulties, and that it is a relationship that will need to be reviewed on an annual basis.
Nevertheless, he says, it is very much a long-term relationship.
“The country is landlocked, and it’s a longer distance from factory to port, so there are some logistical challenges,” he told Sky News.
“We’ve also had to make sure we get the documentation and paperwork correct, and identify which Afghan ministry does what.
“These are challenges we think we’ve overcome, though, and I have been over to Kabul to meet the factory owner and talk about his long-term ambitions.”
He went on: “Initially we’ll use a percentage of Afghan pomegranates in out product, but we aim to make this 100% in future years.”
The Omaid Bahar factory in Kabul has just shipped its first pomegranates to the UK
The state-of-the-art Omaid Bahar fruit processing facility, based in Kabul, opened in October 2009 with the support of the American government agency USAID.
Its first batch of juice is expected to arrive in the UK during March 2010.
Mustafa Sadiq, owner of Omaid Bahar said: “I am proud to have built this factory and the commitment from Pomegreat gives me great hope for the future that I can fulfil the needs of international markets with our superior production of juice.”
Afghanistan was once famous for its pomegranates, before years of war cut trade routes and forced the loss of traditional markets.
Many of the nation’s farmers are now engaged in opium poppy cultivation, a trade that has been growing since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
International efforts have been made to offer poor farmers incentives to grow other crops - including pomegranates, to control the production of opium, from which heroin is obtained.