ADB to help Afghanistan rebuild agriculture sector

MANILA, Nov 24, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Monday that it would grant Afghanistan 30 million U.S. dollars to help rebuild its agriculture sector, battered by years of war and drought, in the landlocked and mountainous country.

The grant will be used to build facilities in the livestock and horticulture industries, the Manila-based bank said in a statement.

Agriculture accounts for half of the country's gross domestic product and is the major source of employment and income for most Afghans. Horticulture and livestock industries play a key role in the sector.

Prior to the long period of conflict and severe droughts in the last decade, Afghanistan dominated the world's pistachio market and supplied 20 percent of the total global market for raisins. But with the destruction of infrastructure and limited access to finance, technical and market support, agricultural output and quality declined sharply.

At present, butchers slaughter animals in the street or in backyards because of the destruction of abattoirs during the war.

The project will invest in five slaughterhouses as well as a number of small-scale packing, sorting, grading, drying, and cold storage facilities for the horticulture sector.

"The project will help cut product losses, raise product standards and increase product competitiveness in both domestic and international markets. It will increase returns to producers and traders, provide opportunities to add value to products and create employment, as well as bringing public health and environmental benefits," said Allan Kelly, Principal Rural Development Economist with ADB's Central and West Asia Department.