Smuggling of pine nuts to Pakistan continues unabated
KHOST CITY (Pajhwok): Due to lack of access to a profitable market, Afghanistan’s pine nuts continue to be exported to Pakistan at a dirt-cheap price, traders in the southeastern province of Khost complain.
In the harvest season, hundreds of men and women work hard separating pine nuts -- just to take empty cones in wages. The cones are used as firewood in the harsh winter season.
The nuts are brought from Paktia, Khost and Paktika forests to Khost City for separation from cones. Weather conditions in the provincial capital are favorable for the sifting process.
Both traders and growers agreed the yield of pine nuts had fallen compared to previous years when the market demand was higher. Still, the fruit was sold to Pakistanis at throwaway prices.
As Afghanistan has no special market for its dried fruits, especially pine nuts. As a result, the fruit is taken to Pakistan, where its prices are intentionally kept low.
Pakistan then exported the Afghan pines as its own product to China, a resident of Gayan district of Paktika, Mohammad Khan, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
“If Pakistani traders don’t come to Khost, we take our produce to the neighbouring country, where prices are of their choosing.”
Another resident of Zadran district, Mohammad Arif, said pine nut prices had spiked because of low production this year. If the government did not find a good market for the fruit, they would be forced to sell their produce at cheaper rates, like in years past.
“The price of a 40-kg bag of pine nuts is around 70,000 Pakistani rupees (43,000 afghanis) but producing this amount cost up to 24500 afs this year,” he explained.
Another resident of Chamkani district of Paktia province, Kamin Khan, said he had brought pine cones to the province for separation, costing 4300,000 afs. But he fears losses if the produce is sent to Pakistan.
He asked government to open a dried fruit market, especially pine nuts, or export the produce directly to China.“If we shift pine nuts to Pakistan, we have to sell them at the price offered by Pakistani traders. But if we have our own market, we can pocket more profit,” he said.
But Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) chief Nawab Amiri said nearly 90 percent of the pine nuts were smuggled to Pakistan. If the traders export the dried fruit, they will earn more.
“Some powerful government officials are involved in the pine nut smuggling. The authorities should deal with such people. Only 10 percent of the produce is exported legally,” he stressed.
According to Amiri, more than 10,000 tonnes of pine nuts were taken in an unregulated manner to Pakistan, China and other countries every year. If the fruits were exported properly, there would be more benefits for the government and traders, he concluded.
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