Chilgoza prices in Pakistan go nuts as exports soar

Sheraz Khan, a dry fruit trader in one of upscale markets in Islamabad, shows chilgoza (pine nuts) to a customer in his shop on Nov. 17, 2019. (AN photo by Aamir Saeed)
Updated 17 November 2019

Chilgoza prices in Pakistan go nuts as exports soar

  • Pine nuts are selling for as high as Rs. 8,500 ($55) per kilogram in the capital, Islamabad
  • Around 20 percent of Pakistan’s forests comprise of pine nut trees, with most of the dry fruit exported to the Middle East, China and US

ISLAMABAD: Every evening, farmer Muhammad Ali climbs up the mountains in Pakistan’s northern Diamer district through a narrow unpaved road to bring down at least two sacks of pine nuts, called chilgozas locally, collected by workers hard at work during the day.
Around 20 percent of Pakistan’s forests comprise of chilgoza trees, with the country producing 15 percent of the world’s total pine nuts at between 3,500 to 4,000 metric tons annually. However, most of these are exported to the Middle East, China, the US, UK and Europe, leaving behind a short supply of exceedingly high priced nuts for local consumption selling in the capital, Islamabad, for approximately Rs. 8,500 ($55) per kilogram this season, according to traders.
In Diamer- one of the country’s main production regions for pine nuts- the price is lower at Rs. 3,200 ($21) per kilogram, but remains prohibitively expensive for most locals.
“The chilgoza has been in high demand since winter began,” Sheraz Khan, a dry fruit trader in one of Islamabad’s most upscale markets, told Arab News.
“We are selling it at Rs. 8,500 ($55) per kilogram, and customers are buying it without even haggling,” he said.
Khan, however, said that the majority of his chilgoza customers were foreigners including Chinese people.
“It is quite a difficult and hectic process to pick chilgozas from pine trees up in the mountains, but it is worth the labor,” farmer Ali told Arab News.
“This year, the yield and rates [of chilgoza] are very good,” he said. “I hope to earn enough to pay the school fees of my three kids and fund other routine expenses during the year.”
Laborers and other people connected to the pine nut industry are also reaping the monetary benefits of the highly priced nuts, he said.
The high demand and price of chilgozas in the market has additionally increased awareness of the nuts’ value, and kickstarted a conversation about the preservation of the trees in order to safeguard their environment for the future. 
“The pine trees are a source of livelihood for the locals,” Ali said. “Therefore they have formed local committees to protect them from illegal loggers and the timber mafia.”
Pine nut trees are found in Pakistan’s north and southwestern provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, including in the northern areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir. The tree is hard and tall, and can endure excessive drought, high winds, and severe cold in the winter. 
Pine-nut harvesting begins in September. Locals collect the green cones from trees and spread them under the open sky to let them dry in the sun for more than two weeks. Each cone contains between 15 to 20 pine nuts depending on its size. It is then processed through a machine for quality grading before being sold in the market, with the nuts usually eaten raw or roasted.


Patient Abid cuts his way into cricket history at age 32

Updated 39 min 49 sec ago

Patient Abid cuts his way into cricket history at age 32

  • He has long been knocking at the doors of international cricket
  • Abid is now the oldest Pakistani player to score a century on debut

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Nobody can accuse 32-year-old Abid Ali of not seizing his chances when given them.
Pakistan drew its first test at home in 10 years against Sri Lanka at the Pindi Cricket Stadium after rain washed out more than half of the match, but not before Abid had smashed a century on debut. He was batting at the same venue where Pakistan great Younis Khan scored a century on his test debut in 2000 — also against Sri Lanka.
Abid completed a unique double, becoming the batsman in the history of the sport to score a century in both his ODI and test debuts.
More than 12,000 cricket-starved fans — popularly known as ‘The Pindi Boys’ — enjoyed every moment of the opener’s innings under bright sunshine. He hit an unbeaten 109, featuring 11 fours. Six of those boundaries were his favorite cut shots.
Abid has long been knocking at the doors of international cricket but had to wait patiently until he got his chance in March this year during the limited-overs series.
A scintillating ODI century against Australia in the United Arab Emirates was not enough to convince the selectors that he was ready for the all-important World Cup in England.
But Abid didn’t lose heart and continued to polish his skills at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. He was among the 16-man squad which toured Australia for the recent two-test series but couldn’t fit in new coach Misbah-ul-Haq’s plans. Pakistan returned home after heavy losses at Brisbane and Adelaide, where Abid watched from the sidelines.
Abid’s hopes were raised once again when he was selected for the home series against Sri Lanka, but there were still pundits who didn’t believe he’d get a chance in Rawalpindi.
“I had never grumbled whenever I was ignored,” Abid said. “I have patience. I believed that my time will come ... Thankfully I got my chance and what else you could ask for than a hundred on debut. I waited a long for this very day and here I am.”
Only 5.2 overs could be bowled on the third day and the entire fourth day was washed out due to wet conditions.
Bright sunshine welcomed players on the last day and Abid seized the opportunity Sunday after Sri Lanka declared its first innings at 308-6 once Dhananjaya de Silva had scored his sixth test hundred.
Together with Pakistan’s most reliable batsman Babar Azam, who scored his third test hundred, Abid enthralled fans under perfect batting conditions.
Abid, now the oldest Pakistani player to score a century on debut, said he didn’t want to be compared with the greats of the game.
“I am an ordinary player and I can’t match great players,” he said. “I am Abid Ali and please see me as Abid Ali only.”
But one of those greats has already acknowledged that a star is on the rise in the Pakistan team.
“We call him Legend” in the dressing room, Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis tweeted after Abid’s century.