Pine nut exports to China help Afghan farmers in poor Nuristan province increase income

Source: Xinhua| 2020-10-18 10:25:54|Editor: huaxia

Photo taken on Oct. 23, 2019 shows pine nuts at a pine nut factory in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. (Xinhua/Rahmatullah Alizadah)

Pine nut business has changed people's living conditions since its exports to China via air corridor, along with the support from local government.

by Abdul Haleem

NURISTAN, Afghanistan, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- "Pine nut is a natural treasure and pine nut trees are common in the poor Nuristan province, and if the pine nut forests are protected and used properly they can bring change to the living condition of the people," local Afghan businessman Marouf Khan said.

Busy collecting pine nuts along with dozens of daily wagers, Khan said, "Pine nut exports to China over the past couple of years have increased the country's income and also changed living conditions of those involved in the business."

Nuristan residents, like many in other parts of Afghanistan, are suffering from high unemployment, Khan said, adding if a daily wager can earn at least 500 afghani (6.5 U.S. dollars) everyday it would certainly bring changes to his life.

Presently hundreds of locals are working to collect and process pine nuts, he said.

People work at a pine nut factory in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2019. (Xinhua/Rahmatullah Alizadah)

"If the people of Nuristan with the support of government protect and develop the pine nut forests and properly process it with modern machines, definitely they will earn enough livelihood much more than expected to change their living conditions," Khan told Xinhua.

Featuring dense forests, historical sites and beautiful landscape, the mountainous Nuristan is one of the poorest provinces of conflict-battered Afghanistan.

To increase locals' income, the government declared Nuristan's forests as a national park in June, a decision widely welcomed by local residents.

"The development of pine nut forests and the natural beauty of Nuristan could bring tourists and investment to the province which is essential for bolstering local business and bringing change to people's life," pine nut entrepreneur Sabir Khan told Xinhua.

Khan said he bought a piece of pine nut forest at 1.25 million afghani (16,300 U.S. dollars) and hired scores of locals to collect the valuable seed. But his business had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic since the outbreak in February.

Although pine nut exports to China was paused due to the pandemic, Khan said he was hopeful that the exports would resume in the near future.

An Afghan man works at a pine nut factory in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2019. (Xinhua/Rahmatullah Alizadah)

Since the start of the pine nut exports to China, local investment in the valuable seed has increased.

Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces are famous for good quality pine nut production in the country. Since the start of the exports to China via air corridor in 2018, pine nut trees have also been developed in Nuristan, Laghman, Kapisa and other provinces.

Pine nut exports to China has raised the price of the sweet seed in local market as the price of 1 kg pine nut in the eastern Jalalabad city is 4,000 afghani (52 U.S. dollars) nowadays, according to locals.

Abdul Wahab Nasimi, director for agriculture and irrigation department in Nuristan, expected that the province would produce more than 200 tons of pine nut this year.

More than 3,000 hectares out of 300,000 hectares of forests in Nuristan are pine nut trees, said Nasimi.

The official promised local administration's support to developing pine nut forests, saying that the government's support would boost exports to China, thus creating job opportunities for locals and increasing national income.