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Will you be able to afford Chilgoza this year?

A kilogram costs Rs2,500 right now

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 28, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Oct 28, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 months ago

You cannot think of Chilgoza (pine nut) and just not think of money.

In Pakistan, pine nuts not only crop up during conversations in winter, but provide enough fodder for memes too, thanks to their exorbitant prices which have made them a rare dry fruit beyond the means of many.

The Chilgoza is a seed found inside the cones that come from the Chilgoza pine (Sanober). According to experts, a Chilgoza pine is among the world’s slowest growing trees.

They are found in the Northern Areas, including Diamer in Gilgit-Baltistan, Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Zhob in Balochistan. In India and Afghanistan, they grow in high areas with the lowest temperatures. 

Since pine nuts require two years to ripen, their prices are comparatively higher in alternate years.

For instance, if 75% of a tree’s cones ripen in 2020, it means they started growing two years ago. Similarly, the remaining 25% will take another year, meaning that they will be ready in 2021. That means a low harvest and higher prices this year. 

Until a few years ago, there used to be relatively fewer traders dealing in Chilgoza as they had limited access to pine forests. But as it turned into a lucrative business, locals started to search for these forests and this led to an increased production.

In Pakistan, there are three major markets for pine nuts. They are located in Bannu, Chilas and Lahore. Most goods produced in Chilas are exported to China owing to its relative proximity to the country.

A large quantity of pine nuts reaches Bannu from Afghanistan, making it the biggest Chilgoza market. Spain, Germany, Italy and France are the biggest buyers of pine nuts. Europe, where demand for the dry fruit has increased over the last five years, was set to import pine nuts worth $250 million before the pandemic.

The reason for an increased demand in Pakistan last year was that Chilgoza was being exported to China. But as coronavirus forced the trade shut, pine nut prices came down and remained relatively low throughout the year. Before the pandemic, a total of 30,000 metric tons of Chilgoza were produced, but a decline in demand due to coronavirus restrictions has impacted the production. What is interesting is that when the demand is high, people get to remote and difficult mountains to collect the nuts, leading to a rise in production.

Health benefits of Chilgoza

Until about a decade ago, pine nuts were not as expensive as they are today. One kilogram of Chilgoza used to cost hardly Rs1,000, but in the last few years, its demand has surprisingly increased across Europe and the United States one reason for that is the seed’s surprising health benefits. 

According to experts, the Chilgoza is a high-calorie food that is rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. It contains oleic acid which lowers cholesterol levels and increases HDL (high-density lipoprotein). It helps reduce the risk of developing heart disease, improves sleep, and is beneficial for those suffering from iron deficiency. Chilgoza has ample amounts of vitamin E, a lip-soluble antioxidant which boosts immunity.

Although coronavirus restrictions have been eased, China and European countries are closely monitoring imports from Pakistan. Frequent closures of the Pakistan-China border will lower pine seed export due to which prices may decline across Pakistan this season.

The markets for pine seed processing and trade are usually set up in September and they run till December. In case of a good season, they may last till January.

The markets have already been set up in Chilas but, according to a trader Qayyum Khan, a lower production is expected this season as last year’s was high. If the Pakistan-China border is opened, prices may increase. A kilogram of Chilgoza currently costs Rs2,500 to Rs2,800. 

Haji Mukammal, a trader in Bannu, said that pine seeds are brought to the market from Afghanistan and North Waziristan. Although people have been allowed to harvest there, Chilgoza from Afghanistan is still uncertain given the current situation. It is being reported that China is in talks with Afghanistan about directly importing pine nuts. Mukammal added that if traders are allowed exports like they were before the pandemic, then prices may rise as they did in 2020 or else a kilogram may cost less than Rs3,000.

Reports by Afghan media suggest that there has been a significant production of pine nuts in the country this season. According to authorities in Nangrahar province, a 20% increase may bring the total Chilgoza production to 850 tons.

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One Comment

  1. Muhammad Sagheer  October 29, 2021 7:31 am/ Reply

    Please share the contact of the person who can deliver at this rate of chilghoza.

    Regards,

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