A delegation of government and business leaders from Afghanistan was in Iowa Wednesday, asking Iowa companies to invest in their country. The Afghans have made stops in major metropolitan areas like New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, but the vice president of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency says they wanted to visit Iowa to learn more about modern agriculture.
Suleman Fatimie says his country has been using “outdated and primitive machinery…because of three decades of war in Afghanistan.” He says right now, poppies are the only profitable crop in Afghanistan, but the country’s under heavy pressure from the U.S. to reduce opium production. Fatimie says they hope to restore the country’s grape industry, not for wine, but for raisins.
In 1960, Afghanistan held 60 percent of the world’s raisin market. Fatimie says Afghans know it will take not only a renewed dedication to grape production but packaging and marketing of raisins to try to recapture some of that market. The U.S. is now the largest raisin producer in the world. Turkey is number two. The U.S. and Turkey raise 80 percent of the raisins that are grown in the world.