A story of escape, trade, horror, and hope told in Delhi’s largest market for Afghan Mediterranean fruit


New Delhi — Nostalgia for every corner of the Old Delhi caribou Mediterranean fruit market, home to India’s largest wholesale Afghan reindeer fruit.

As the Mughal Empire was the pre-colonial capital of India, the market had centuries of ties with Afghanistan, with dried fruits dominated trade in particular.

After India’s separation in 1949, dried fruit traders came from the undivided major market for dried fruit trade in Afghanistan, India. Peshawar, Quetta (Currently Pakistan), launched a business in Cali Baori.

Of the $ 507 million (3700 chlores) worth of imports from Afghanistan to India, $ 315 million (2300 chlores) will be from fruits and nuts alone in 2020-21, according to the Indian Ministry of Commerce’s trade database. Contributed.

Approximately a mile along the crowded Chandni Chowk trail overlooking the walls of Red Fort, where India declared independence in 1947, the cariburi market is lined with shops selling dried fruits and spices. The department does not mind the noise and scent of constantly high decibels from anywhere, and there are merchants and sellers doing business in the sun.

23-year-old Pawan Deep Singh sits at the entrance of the store, leaning against the wall, laying a photo of a Garland Sikh guru on his head, displaying an array of dried fruits in front of him, and on the street. The big sign declared: “Kabul Dihatti” which means Kabul shop in Punjabi.

Kabul Dihatti, a wholesaler of dried fruits at the Chandni Chowk district of Old Delhi on September 3, 2021, at Pawan Deep Singh. Shin’s family fled Kabul 40 years ago. (Venus Upadayaya / Epoch Times)

“My grandfather and grandfather were from Kabul. Forty years ago, my father came to Delhi. My grandfather’s relatives have already been killed. Because of the threat to our lives, I We fled Afghanistan, “said Singh, whose family had a distributor and home in Karte Parwar, Kabul.

When Shin’s family fled, they had to leave everything behind, including their homes they couldn’t sell. “Life is the most precious,” he said.

Shin’s father did a strange job at first, and gradually they started their own retail store of dried fruits.

“People like Afghanistan’s dried fruits because they are pure. People have the idea that the oil is extracted from American almonds before it is sold to the market,” Shin said. ..

The Taliban closed all imports and exports to India and closed two routes of trade via Pakistan, according to Indian media reports on August 20.

The cariburi market, right in front of Shin’s store, branches into many small lanes where you will come across a dingy market with large and small stores of different types of food. The board above the gate on the other side says “Ishwar Bavan”.

Epoch Times Photo
Pawan Deep Singh shows his father and grandfather photos on his mobile phone at the Khari Bouli Market in Old Delhi on September 3, 2021. They fled Kabul 40 years ago. (Venus Upadayaya / Epoch Times)

In the narrow, dim lanes, there are wholesalers of dried fruits, some of which are from Afghanistan. In his store, Shin points out black resin or Karidarak.

Traders at Ishwar Bhavan have listed figs (Anjeer), golden resins (Abjoosh), green resins (kishmish), Khumani (dry apricots), pistachios (Pishori Pista), and more than 10 almonds as Afghan favorites. They told the Epoch Times that about 85 percent of all dried fruits on the market come from farms in Afghanistan.

Yogesh Agarwaal’s ancestors have been a wholesaler of dried fruits in Khali Bouli since 1942. They supply dried fruits throughout India.

Agarwal was sitting in a store called Drotry in Ishwarbavan. An Afghan in a gray cotton Afghan suit was sitting in the store chatting on the phone, hiding his face from the camera. Agarwal refers to Afghans as a merchant of dried fruits.

“The problem only arises if the relationship between the two countries is completely stopped. The problem was around Kabul. The dried fruits come mainly from Kandahar and are safe according to Afghan traders,” said Agarwal. I am. He said things would go well until the Wagah border between India and Pakistan opened.

As the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, Agarwal responded to fears that trade between India and Afghanistan would stop altogether.

After the Taliban’s expulsion, India and Afghanistan signed a Preferential Trade Area (PTA) in 2003, allowing them to offer 50-100% tariffs on various Afghan products, including certain dried fruits.

Since then, trade has increased several-fold and both traders have traveled to each other’s cities. In particular, the number of Afghan traders living in Cali Baoli has increased many times. Hindustan Times reported, Indian newspaper.

Towards the far end of the side street where Agarwar was sitting in the store, the sign at the top said “Afghani”. The trader sitting on the street pointed to the stairs leading to the room on the second floor. This is a guesthouse that houses Afghan traders.

“Many Afghan traders want to set up their own shops and offices, but now they bring in samples of dried fruits to fix prices, and then local traders import them. Afghan traders stay in the market and receive payments until the consignment is sold, “Kapir Grati, who runs a company called Kandar Trading, told the Hindustan Times.

Epoch Times Photo
On September 3, 2021, a man sells dried fruits at the Cariburi Market in the Chandni Chowk district of Old Delhi (Venus Upadayaya / The Epoch Times)

The side streets from Ishwar Bhavan are so narrow and dingy that only one person can walk at a time, but the constant flow of men loading and unloading dried fruits proceeded at mechanical speed.

In a Ravi merchant, two workers swiftly afghan resin from their store for an order while a man sitting in a small store next door selling only cloves glues to his cell phone. I loaded it in.

“This is the peak season, when we receive fresh dried fruit crops from Afghanistan. After the current domestic crisis, the biggest problem is the collapse of banking services, which is why we make financial transactions with traders there. And we can’t do the necessary paperwork because many Afghan government officials aren’t working yet, “Gulati said.

“Some traders from Afghanistan who were in the business market are stuck in Delhi after the Taliban has taken over the country.”

According to traders, India today also imports dried fruits from other countries such as the United States, Chile and Peru, so the impact of border closures and Kabul’s political uncertainty on the market is not significant. That is.

However, Dr. Ajay Sahai, Director (DG) of the Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO) I was telling India today If the route does not open, Indian traders will have to look for alternative suppliers.

“We are keeping an eye on the development of Afghanistan. Imports from there come through Pakistan’s transit route. Currently, the Taliban has stopped moving cargo to Pakistan, effectively stopping imports. We are doing it, “said Sahai.

Venus Upadayaya

Venus Upadhayaya reports on various issues. Her area of ​​expertise is geopolitics in India and South Asia. She reports from the highly volatile Indian-Pakistan border and has contributed to India’s mainstream print media for almost a decade. Community media, sustainable development and leadership continue to be her key areas of interest.