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.


Pakistan foils terror bid, seizes arms smuggled from Afghanistan

Updated 38 min 35 sec ago

Pakistan foils terror bid, seizes arms smuggled from Afghanistan

  • KP information minister says authorities suspect an organized group behind the smuggling
  • 207 weapons of different brands were concealed in a truck crossing Torkham border to enter Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities on Friday impounded a truck carrying a huge arms cache coming from Afghanistan via Torkham border, an anti-narcotics official said on Sunday.
The illicit crossing over of arms, drugs and other illegal materials at Torkham, the major border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, is not uncommon.
In January this year, hundreds of weapons were seized concealed inside a coal truck entering Pakistan from Afghanistan. In June last year, Afghan forces seized a huge bomb-making cache in the back of a vegetable truck crossing over from Pakistan.
“While passing through the transit scanners, the truck coming from Afghanistan was found suspicious on Friday. A thorough search of the truck led the customs department, Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) and other security officials to recover 207 weapons of different brands including Tomahawk and Maverick guns with Turkish made seals,” Raffaqat Hussain, a sub-inspector of the ANF, told Arab News at the busy Pak-Afghan Torkham border in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
However, the arms smugglers inside the truck, including the driver of the vehicle, managed to flee after the truck was seized. A passport belonging to the driver was found on the dashboard of the vehicle, Hussain said. He added that the weapons were masterfully concealed inside the truck’s hidden cavities.
KP’s provincial Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai told Arab News that his government had ‘zero tolerance’ for banned items including arms and narcotics to and from Afghanistan.
“Yes, a truck carrying arms from Afghanistan has been impounded but investigations are in initial process and its findings cannot be made public at this point,” Yousafzai said.
“The officials concerned suspect an organized group behind the botched arms’ smuggling attempt. A looming threat of terror has been foiled but investigations are underway to reach to the depth of the issue,” he added.
Authorities said that a case had been lodged and all concerned departments from police to Khasadar and counter-terrorism forces, were involved in the investigation.
Yousafzai said Pakistan and Afghanistan shared a long porous border but provincial authorities had intensified efforts to discourage illegal business and smuggling along the border areas.
In July this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed all concerned departments to initiate a countrywide crackdown on smuggling, in an Islamabad meeting.
Also in that meeting, it was unanimously decided that a committee would be formed, to be headed by the interior minister, to systemize transit trade and curb smuggling at Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran border areas.