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Cablegate: First Agfair in Afghanistan

VZCZCXRO6736
RR RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1526/01 1260515
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060515Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7873
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC 0446
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 4015

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001526

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR F, SCA/FO, SCA/RA, AND SCA/A
PASS AID/A JKUNDER, ANE MWARD
PASS OPIC AND TDA
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN, BCAMP
TREASURY PASS TO LMCDONALD, ABAUKOL, AND JCIORCIARI
OSD FOR BREZINZSKI
COMMERCE FOR DEES

SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON EINV ETRD AF
SUBJECT: FIRST AGFAIR IN AFGHANISTAN


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) AgFair 2007, also called the Afghan Agricultural Trade Fair,
was the first international agricultural trade show of its kind in
post-war Afghanistan and attracted between 45 and 60 thousand people
over two days (April 22-23). The fair catalyzed much needed
investment in the agriculture sector, facilitated trade, and
introduced new agricultural technologies for sale to Afghanistan.
The AgFair received sustained positive local press coverage and was
attended by Mr. David Murdock, CEO and owner of Dole Foods Company,
and high-level Government of Afghanistan officials. As the first
large-scale event of this nature to be held in 30 years, AgFair
provided a much-needed morale boost to the Afghan public and the
private sector. END SUMMARY.

------------
AGFAIR EVENT
------------

2. (U) AgFair was jointly planned and managed by USAID, the
Government of Afghanistan's (GOA's) Ministry of Agriculture,
Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), and the Afghan International
Chamber of Commerce (AICC). Over 200 booths were rented to
exhibitors and agricultural businesses on the 46,000 square meter
site which was constructed to international standards in only 72
days. The physical structures consisted of 950 square meter chicken
houses converted into display areas, a central stage area for
performances, tents erected for food and beverage providers,
equipment showcase space, and a 314 meter circumference, roofed
concrete pad for the majority of the agriculture display booths. On
a 140-acre plot of land adjacent to the AgFair new technologies
including laser leveling of land for increased water efficiency;
drip irrigation; use of plastic mulch techniques for high-value
horticulture; and improved, appropriate-technology raisin drying
equipment, were demonstrated.

----------------------------
AGFAIR PARTICIPANT REACTIONS
----------------------------

3. (U) International and Afghan firms participated in AgFair.
Private commercial sponsors included Afghan Wireless Communications
Company, Kabul Bank, Coca-Cola, Crystal Water, Alokozay Tea, Serena
Hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel, and Tolo/Lemar. Businesses
reported brisk sales to AgFair visitors, as summed up by Mark
Henning of JDA, a US-based company selling two-wheel tractors for
Afghan farms. Henning said, "We sold every piece of equipment we
brought to AgFair and we made connections for additional work in
Helmand and Mazar." Foreign diplomats also attended - the Dutch
Charge expressed amazement at the scale and scope of the
enterprise.

4. (U) Afghan farmers also expressed gratitude for the opportunity
to participate in AgFair. Simple farming methods and inexpensive
innovations that increase farm gate prices were demonstrated
alongside more advanced technologies. "It is as if a blind man
enters and gets his sight. AgFair gives us information about new
agricultural practices", commented Obaidullah, a farmer from
Qarabagh. Nasruddin, a farmer who lost most of his grapevines during
the war and is now re-planting them, said, "We have Farmers'
Festivals in villages but AgFair is nothing like them. It is huge.
It is well organized. It is educational." Afghan farming
associations, in addition to individual farmers, attended the fair.
Haji Stana Gul, from the Eastern Region Fresh Fruit and Vegetable
Wholesalers Association, stood proudly in front of his AgFair stand
and stated, "I am happy to be here because this is how we can
improve our business."

-------
COMMENT
-------

5. (U) AgFair 2007 had a great impact upon national consciousness

KABUL 00001526 002 OF 002


beyond the simple economic impetus it provided to the agriculture
sector. An event of this scale and scope had not been attempted in
Afghanistan for over 30 years, and it was completed without any
security incidents. In addition to creating a marketplace for
agricultural buyers and sellers to transact business, the AgFair
visually demonstrated, through media coverage, the progress that the
country has made towards the normal, comparatively prosperous life
that once existed before the war. Ordinary Afghan farmers and
Government of Afghanistan ministries viewed the success of the
AgFair as proof that the overall situation in the country is
improving. AgFair will be expanded to other areas of Afghanistan
and repeated in the fall. END COMMENT.

WOOD

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