EghtesadOnline: Iranian officials have said Afghan traders can get a 25% discount on investment at Chabahar Port, besides taking advantage of free land and other facilities.
Afghan traders can export fruits to other countries from the seaport in southeastern Iran, according to officials of southern Kandahar Province who recently visited the neighboring country.
Kandahar Governor Zalmai Weesa, along with a delegation of traders and officials, travelled to Iran and held meetings with the Governor-General of Sistan-Baluchistan Province Ali Osat Hashemi, Mashhad Governor-General Alireza Rashidian and other high-ranking officials there.
Fazl Bari Baryalai, the provincial government spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News on Tuesday that the visit was aimed at expanding trade between Kandahar and Sistan-Baluchistan provinces, according to Financial Tribune.
He said the Kandahar delegation held talks with Iranian officials about investment at Chabahar Port and evaluated problems facing Afghan traders at the port.
In Iran, Weesa asked Iranian authorities to extend Afghan businessmen’s visas from one to three years to allow them to travel to other parts of Iran.
Baryalai quoted the governor-general as asking Iranian businessmen to invest in Kandahar Province.
The Sistan-Baluchistan governor-general promised to revoke the €300 guarantee fee from passengers coming to Iran from Kandahar and speed up the visa process for them.
He asked Afghan businessmen to invest in infrastructure projects at the port.
An agreement was also inked between the governor of Sistan-Baluchistan and his Kandahar counterpart on expanding trade ties.
Under the agreement, joint committees were formed to discuss economic and transit cooperation between the two sides.
The agreement allows Afghan businessmen to export their dry and fresh fruits through Iran to other countries.
Osat said the Kandahar business community could play an important role by investing in Chabahar Port.
Earlier, Afghan news agency Wadsam also cited the economic attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Kabul, Mohammad Reza Karimzadeh, as saying that Iran is offering an 80% discount in export tariffs and a 75% discount on import duties to Afghan traders using Chabahar.
Afghan traders can also take advantage of warehouse facilities at the strategic Iranian port, which is India’s primary gateway to landlocked Afghanistan by circumventing Pakistan.
Tehran, New Delhi and Kabul signed a trilateral agreement to develop Chabahar in Tehran in May 2016, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani paid a state visit to Iran.
The deal stipulates the development and operation of two terminals and three berths at the port with cargo handling capacities for 10 years.
Based on the agreement, Iran is to provide land in Chabahar Special Economic Zone to Indian companies for setting up petrochemical, fertilizer and other gas-based industries.
India has also agreed to build a 500-km railroad from Chabahar to Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchestan, close to the Afghan border. India’s state-owned IRCON has agreed to build a rail route at a cost of $1.6 billion as part of the transit corridor to Afghanistan.
After connecting Chabahar to Zahedan, the railroad will be linked to Zaranj in Afghanistan. Hence, when the Afghan cargo arrives in Zahedan, it can be transported by a 1,380-km railroad to Chabahar and then shipped to India.
A review of trade between Iran and Afghanistan over the past decade shows the neighboring country has mainly been an importer of Iranian goods.
Iran’s exports to Afghanistan have been on a general uptrend since the fiscal 2005-6, topping at $3 billion in 2012-13. Exports decreased slightly in 2013-14 and the following year, but bounced back to its peak last year (March 2016-17).
Afghanistan’s exports to Iran have been as little as a dozen million dollars on average over the years. The exports peaked at $32 million in the fiscal 2013-14.