Kabul: The one thing that defines Afghan hospitality is their bread and tea. No Afghan meal or interaction is complete without at least one of these. Every meal, from breakfast to dinner, whether as part of a lavish spread or in humble servings, will always include the traditional bread and tea. It’s more than just food – it’s a culture.
One can find a baker on every street in Kabul; sometimes several on one street. You can buy a big round naan (about 20 cms in diameter) for as little as 10 afghanis (10 rupees). “I sell about 400 naans everyday,” says Mohammad Zayeed, a 52 year old baker who has a small bakery off the main road in West Kabul. “Larger bread shops in more populated areas sell over 800 to 1000 naans daily,” he adds.
While there are no clear figures, some bakers who’ve been in this business for long estimate that nearly 5 million naans are sold in Kabul alone, everyday. With thousands of bakeries, just in the capital, the local bread industry has the potential to not only boost allied sectors, but also create a number of jobs for those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.
The ground realities, however, do not support this obvious claim. For one, nearly all bakers in Kabul, to keep their costs low, have to rely on produce imported from neighbouring countries such as Pakistan which are cheaper and often believed to be of lower quality.
“I get my flour from Kazakhstan,” Zayeed says, a bit offended when asked if he uses Pakistani flour. “The flour I use is of better quality, even though it costs me more,” he explains, adding that he cuts corners in the size and thickness of his bread to make them affordable.
But why doesn’t he use local flour? “It isn’t easy to find locally produced flour these days,” he says, arguing that if the government were to increase production of wheat and local flour, he would be among the first to buy it for his business.
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