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Taxed by govt & rebels, orange growers complain of double whammy

Taxed by govt & rebels, orange growers complain of double whammy

Dec 21, 2017 - 15:55

JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Hundreds of orange orchards have ripened in the Batikot district of eastern Nangarhar province, but farmers complain the Taliban are exorbitantly taxing them.

They allege the Taliban are collecting from them higher taxes than the government on their orange gardens -- Nangarhar a claim corroborated by the canalisation department. However, officials say the money the Taliban are collecting is not adequate to fund the conflict.

Around 1,000 orange orchards on 1,500 acres of land -- irrigated by the canalisation system -- are ripe. The gardens are expected to produce 1,000 tonnes of orange, but residents say the fruit us arbitrarily picked by the rebels in some areas.

Mujib Rahman, who has got a citrus farm from the government on lease, grumbled the Taliban charged him double amount of money he paid to the government. Government officials and militants visit these farms and take away the fruit on a daily basis, he said.

“Policemen and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers come in Ranger pickups. They eat as much fruit as they can and then fill their bags. The insurgents do the same. But we can do nothing” he remarked.

Half an acre of a citrus farm is leased out for 2,800 afghanis annually by the government. But the lessee has to pay the Taliban as well to get full control of the farm.

The Taliban receive 5,000 to 6,000 Pakistani rupees on half an acre of the citrus farm because the government has no writ in some of the areas, he said.

Mohammad Amir, another gardener, said the government had access to a gardens on road sides while the rest other gardens were in the Taliban areas, according to the tenant.

Local residents say some of orange gardens are under Taliban’s control. The rebels pick the fruit and sell it in the market.

An inhabitant of Ghanikhel district, who wished to go unnamed, says the price of orange sold by militants in Marko and Batikot bazaars is 20 percent higher.

The orange grown in Batikot is supplied to Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, and other provinces of the country. The Batikot orange being sweeter and cheaper is in high demand.

Gul Akbar, a fresh fruit seller in the Mukhabirat Square of Jalalabad, confirmed people were more interested in buying domestically-grown orange as it was cheaper than that imported from Pakistan.

Provincial officials confirm militants take away 70 percent of the orange fruit but they say the government’s revenue from the farms has increased.

Nangarhar Canalisation Director Ghulam Hazrat Abdur Rahimzai said they had access to all orange gardens and the militants did not create any problems for them.

But the tenants say the Taliban also tax them. “This problem has been shared with senior officials. People complain to us they are charged both by government and Taliban.”

He said that they could not collect enough revenue in the past but this year they had got 4.2 million afghanis from leasing land.

The Nangarhar Canalisation Department also owns date, olive and other fruit farms, which have been are less productive due to negligence on the part of the authorities concerned.

mds/mud