Amritsar sweets flavoured with Afghan dry fruits

Amritsar, January 28, 2008 (ANI): Dry fruits imported from Afghanistan add flavour to sweets made in Amritsar.

Sweet-makers in Amritsar prefer almond kernels, raisins, apricots and pistas from Afghanistan. Amritsar has traditionally been a transit hub for a wide variety of dry fruits from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

An importer of various items from across the border, the city is the market for fresh and quality dry fruits coming from Afghanistan. Avinash Singh, a sweetshop owner in Amritsar, said: "Since Afghanistan is ravaged by war, the supply of dry fruits has come down. But, if trade via road is allowed bilateral trade will get a boost. It not only benefits us, but Amritsar as a whole will become a business hub."

For decades now, Amritsar have been the center of trade from Afghanistan and accounts for 15 per cent of India’s total dry fruit imports. India's import of goods from Afghanistan via Pakistan has picked up after trucks were allowed to roll into India through Wagah border.

Since 2007, nearly 3,000 tones of dry fruits has been imported each month from Afghanistan. Experts feel India and Pakistan - the two important pillars of South Asia Free Trade Area — can play a crucial role in rebuilding Afghanistan.

Confederation of Indian Industries (Amritsar Zone) Chairman Gurveer Singh said:

"Fortunately, today the situation is changing. But, the situation is still not good. Trade at the moment is to the tune of about Rs 300 crore annually, which, we are getting one way into India. Import and export both can increase, but this is entirely dependent on free passage from Pakistan. At present, only imports are allowed through Pakistan from Afghanistan. There is tremendous need for Indian goods in Afghanistan."

In view to increasing trade between India and Afghanistan, New Delhi is seeking passage from Pakistan to export goods via Wagah border. In 2004, Afghanistan's 43.3 percent of exports were to India, and 32.8 percent of imports were from India and Pakistan. Since 2001, Afghanistan’s imports and exports have increased around 2.7 times.