EghtesadOnline: Atotal of 411,567 tons of non-oil goods were traded through Milak border crossing with Afghanistan during the four months ending July 21, Teymour Baqeri, an official with Sistan-Baluchestan Maintenance and Transportation Organization, said recently.
“After some ups and downs over the past two months, commercial exchanges via Milak are back to normal. Close to 300 trucks have been crossing the border daily since August 14,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Noting that Milak is one of the major strategic junctions that connects landlocked Afghanistan to international waters through Iran, the official said over the past month, the movement of trucks and goods carriers was delayed due to a strike by Afghan truckers and their blockade of the return route of Iranian trucks and the retaliation of Iranians.
Sistan-Baluchestan Security Council had ordered the impoundment of over 130 Afghan trucks smuggling fuel from Iran to the neighboring country for three months. Some Afghan transportation companies and truckers closed the return route of Iranian trucks at Zaranj-Milak border crossing in protest against the decision. In return, Iran restricted the return route of Afghan trucks to their country.
Border officials of the two countries underscored the importance of cross-border trade and finally Milak border was reopened on August 6. Afghan truckers were seemingly not satisfied with the outcome of meeting and they closed the route again on August 10.
“After the second meeting between Iranian local officials and Afghanistan’s Nimruz Province was held lately and a memorandum of understanding was signed, Sistan-Baluchestan Security Council released the impounded Afghan trucks and the neighboring country’s local officials pledged to oversee the conduct of their truckers,” Baqeri said.
Besides Milak (which is the main trade corridor between Iran and Afghanistan), the two countries have two other border crossings, namely Mahiroud in South Khorasan Province and Dogharoun in Taybad County of Khorasan Razavi province.
Afghanistan was Iran’s fourth export destination in the four months leading to July 21. It purchased 2.11 million tons of goods worth $713 million, accounting for 8% of Iran’s total exports in the four months.
Hossein Salimi, the chairman of Iran-Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce, says the coronavirus crisis is expected to reduce Iran’s exports to Afghanistan to $2.9 billion in the current fiscal year (March 2020-21) compared with $3.2 billion in previous years.
Salimi said the neighboring Afghanistan meets 40% of its imports, including construction materials, food and fuel from Iran.
“We intend to improve commercial exchanges with Afghans by making investment in their mining sector. Such investments will increase Afghanistan’s revenues and improve their purchasing power. Iranians’ finance of two projects, including a carbonated soft drink plant, has already begun,” he said.
“The southeastern port of Chabahar has played a pivotal role in supplying Afghanistan’s essential goods. That has urged some Afghans to make investments there. A number of silos are being constructed in Chabahar, which have also helped generate new jobs for Iranians, particularly in Sistan-Baluchestan.”