EghtesadOnline: Iran and Afghanistan will be connected through the Khaf-Herat railroad next month, according to the minister of roads and urban development.
“The rail route between Iran and Afghanistan has been established with the aim of increasing transit,” Mohammad Eslami was quoted as saying by ILNA.
The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Afghan Counterpart Ashraf Ghani are expected to attend the inauguration ceremony.
In a visit to the Afghan western province of Herat earlier this month, Iran's Deputy Roads Minister Abbas Khatibi said 93% of the work on the Iranian segment of the rail project have been completed.
Afghan rail officials in Herat said the Afghan government will start work on the fourth phase of the Khaf-Herat rail project within the next 10 days, TOLOnews reported on Oct. 6.
The fourth phase of the project is to lay the track from Ghoryan district of Herat toward the Herat airport.
Referring to the economic significance of the project, officials of Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industries have said that the implementation of the project will help boost exports and imports between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Afghanistan.
“In the fourth phase, 40% of the work will be focused on the geotechnical portion and survey of the project,” said Sayed Aqa Azizi, the head of Herat Railway Directorate.
A Kazakh company is working on the project, he added.
Khaf-Herat railroad will be 130 km long, of which 70 km are inside Iran and 60 km are in Afghanistan. With the completion of this project, Afghanistan can, for the first time, take advantage of a railroad that provides access to Turkey and Europe through Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf.
The project, started in April 2007 with Iran’s assistance worth $75 million, was due to finish in 2009 but was delayed.
The project’s completion will increase transit opportunities in Afghanistan and is intended to solve many investors' and merchants’ problems.
“Khaf railroad project will help connect Herat to the entire world and develop our export ability,” said Abdul Latif Qanawizyan, the deputy head of Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Iranian officials have said that the project will also help Afghanistan get access to Iranian ports at Chabahar and Bandar Abbas.
The development takes place despite high security threats against the project in Ghoryan district.
“When there is development and work in an area, and infrastructure comes there, of course security also increases, but we are fully ready to deal with these threats,” said Najibullah Safai, the commander of the Khaf-Herat Security Department.
The Khaf-Herat railroad is the largest joint infrastructural project between Iran and Afghanistan.
Iran and Afghan officials have said they do not see any problem in the way of completing the project.
Iran Supplies Half of Afghanistan’s Market
Iran accounts for around half of Afghanistan's market, Iran’s commercial attaché to the neighboring country, Mohammad Mehdi Javanmard-Qassab, was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.
“Between $3-4 billion of Afghanistan’s annual imports of $6-7 billion to $7 billion are from Iran,” he added.
“The depreciation of Iranian currency has paved the way for an increase in exports. But to do that, we need good, targeted planning. Afghanistan has huge capacity and demand in the field of technical and engineering services. This provides us with ample opportunity for exporting these services and transferring our technical knowhow in different fields to Afghan businesses.”
To achieve this goal, the official noted that Iran held a technical and engineering exhibition in September.
The first edition of Iran’s Technical and Engineering Services in Water, Electricity and Energy Sectors Exhibition was held in Kabul alongside the first edition of Urban Services, Transportation, Traffic and Related Machinery Exhibition from Sept. 22 to 24.
Iran dispatched its biggest trade delegation over the past 25 years to Afghanistan to attend this exhibition for showcasing Iran’s capabilities and gauging Afghanistan’s market capacities.
Twenty-one Iranian companies in the urban services sector and 54 companies in the technical and engineering services sector participated in the exhibitions, Iranian Embassy in the Afghan capital said in an announcement.
Javanmard-Qassab noted that though Iran aims to increase exports to Afghanistan, there are many infrastructural handicaps.
“Facilities in common border checkpoints are not sufficient to accommodate higher trade volumes. This needs to be addressed by officials of the two sides … The two countries have congenial relations that has strengthened ties between Iranian and Afghan merchants and businesspeople. Therefore, a boost in trade is not far-fetched, if the proper infrastructure is prepared,” he said.
Latest data released by the Customs Administration of Iran show 2.6 million tons worth $871 million were exported from Iran to Afghanistan during the first five months of the current fiscal year (July 22-Aug. 21), accounting for 8% of Iran's total exports to the neighboring country during the period.
All Border Gates Open for Trade
Three main border gates between Iran and Afghanistan are currently open for trade.
Milak in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province is the main trade corridor between the two countries.
The opening hours of Milak was extended on Sept. 16 for 10 days from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. to speed up the flow of commercial traffic on Iran’s side of the border, ILNA reported.
The agreement was reached after a videoconference meeting between Iranian and Afghan heads of customs administrations and an in-person meeting between local officials of Sistan-Baluchestan and Afghanistan’s Nimruz Province.
Wheat, sugar, fabrics, food, dairy products and vegetables are the main items exported by Iran to Afghanistan via Milak border crossing.
Besides Milak, Iran and Afghanistan have two other border crossings for trade, namely Dogharoun in Khorasan Razavi Province’s border city of Taybad and Mahiroud in South Khorasan Province.
About $1.16 billion worth of goods were exported to Afghanistan through Dogharoun Special Economic Zone during the first half of the current Iranian year (started March 20).
“The value of the exported goods has risen by 33% compared with the same period of last year,” the head of Dogharoun Special Economic Zone told IRNA.
Mohammad Rostami added that Afghanistan exported $2.57 million worth of goods to Iran during the same period.
He added that 50% of Iranian exports to Afghanistan through Dogharoun go to Herat, which is the second biggest market in the country.
“The 30-million-person market of Afghanistan welcomes Iranian goods,” he said, adding that construction materials, fresh and dried fruits, and food are among the most popular goods in Afghanistan and construction stones, oilseeds and used batteries are among the main goods exported to Iran from Afghanistan.
Dogharoun border customs office is 100 years old. The border crossing also transits goods originating from Pakistan, Persian Gulf states countries and India.