Sun, Dec 30, 2012 - Page 14 News List

Suicide blast takes down Afghan juice empire

By Michael Georgy  /  Reuters, KABUL

In each of the 10 years following 2014, the government hopes revenues from oil, natural gas, iron, copper and other mining ventures will generate US$4 billion in sales.

Sadiq spent time in Europe, waiting for an opportunity to return and invest in his homeland. He eventually opened a factory in an industrial park along Kabul’s dusty Jalalabad Road in 2008, from where he broke into overseas markets.

Spring Wish, which employed about 1,000 people, was selling produce to the health conscious in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, bringing money into Afghanistan, while anxious Afghans carted US$4.5 billion in cash out of the country last year to safety.

However, when asked about the maps on a wall identifying parts of Afghanistan that offer opportunities for farmers and businesses like his, Sadiq could only put his head in his hands and cry.

The dark red seeds from Sadiq’s fruits were prized in Europe for their antioxidant qualities and in Japan where many believe they can help fight cancer. He seems most proud of the fact that he helped 40,000 farmers across Afghanistan earn a living.

As Sadiq tries to persuade his staff to keep dreaming big and to rebuild, one question may haunt him for some time. The suicide bomber parked his truck in a lane between his company and a foreign firm. The Taliban said it attacked a US company next door, but he still wonders whether his factory, which relied on Italian machinery and benefited from US aid programs, was the target. And he acknowledges he is desperate for money from Western donors.

“Around 120 people were working here and this factory was totally destroyed in the suicide attack,” said Mohammed Jaw, 28, a general operator for the firm. “A number of our workers will lose their jobs and now everyone is concerned about what happens next.”

Despite the loss, Sadiq’s entrepreneurial and marketing spirit seems intact.

“Have you tried the juice with mulberry flavor?” he asked proudly. “It’s really good.”

Then a worker brought the moment back to reality. He lifted his cellphone to show a photograph of the suicide bomber’s severed head.

Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni

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