China’s love of pine nuts helps Afghan exporters

Plants hope to enhance shipments to Beijing to inflate earnings

Xinhua January 10, 2022
Pine nuts stored in a godown in Azad Market in the Wazir Subdivision. Photo: Express


“I earn up to 1,000 afghani a day, depending on my work,” said Samsoor, 28, who works for Zmarai Gayanwal Limited, a pine nut processing and exporting company in Kabul.

“I love my job but we really need to export more to China. It is the only way to increase our income and keep the plant operating,” said Samsoor.

Established in 2015, Zmarai Gayanwal Limited has over 100 people working for the company now, said Zmarai Gayanwal President Sher Ali Zadran. “Between 100 to 150 people are employed directly as they work in the factory and thousands more work indirectly,” Zadran told Xinhua. “The factory pays 300 afghani a day to each worker, besides providing lunch and transportation.”

The company exported 650 tons of nuts to China last year and it is planning to hit 950 tons mark in 2022 and fetch revenue of $28,000-38,000 per ton. While Zadran is happy with his income and the progress of his plant, he hopes that more Chinese investors will see the potential earnings and use their money to create more jobs.

Khalil Rashid, managing director of a pine nuts processing and exporting company, highlighted that pine-nut trade with China had created jobs for thousands of people in his country, which had been at war for decades.

“Besides people working in the factory, their families also process nuts at home and bring them back to factory after they finish,” Rashid said.

Pine cones are harvested 10 days before they open. The cones are dried in the sun for 20 days and then smashed to release the nuts which are sorted by hand. It takes time and persistence to extract the nuts from the cones, justifying the high price.

Afghanistan historically exported 10,000 tons of pine nuts to China each year, with more heading to Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. Exports were disrupted last year, but to China at least, trade more or less resumed at the end of October with the first air shipment of 45 tons.

Thousands of Afghans are now working with more than a dozen nut processing factories.

“We are very happy to provide more jobs for people and to make more money, not just for us but also for our workers,” said Rashid. “More exports will bring more jobs.”

According to aid agencies, more than 22 million Afghans will face severe food shortages this winter. Without overseas assistance, there is a threat of a humanitarian catastrophe.

“More than 10,000 people work in the pine-nut industry in areas of plantations, transportation and processing,” said Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment CEO Shafiqullah Atayee.

“Creating jobs could be the most effective way to help Afghans out of poverty. China is the main destination for our pine nuts,” Atayee said. “The country has a huge market for Afghan products and seems keen to import as much as we can offer them in terms of dried and fresh fruit, carpets and handicrafts.”

Afghan private airline Kam Air has flown more than 30 cargo flights to transport pine nuts to China since November 2021. “Cargo flights will continue in 2022. Kam Air and exporters are determined to increase Afghanistan’s exports,” said the airline official Mohammad Nadeam Naqshbandi.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 10, 2022.

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