CHITRAL: A significant fall has been registered in the price of bumper produce of chilgoza or pine nuts in Chitral as Covid-19 pandemic kept the traders who would transport it to China and the national market away from the district.

Haji Ghulam Hameed, a dry fruit trader in Chitral, said that last year the price of chilgoza touched the record Rs8,000 per kilogramme, but this year it fell and was fluctuating between Rs1,500 and Rs1900 per kg in the local market.

He said that chilgoza traders from the southern district of Bannu and other parts of the country would usually throng Chitral before the harvest season and pay the collectors in advance, which led to creation of an environment of competition here.

He said that Covid-19 this year and restrictions on travel to China through Khunjerab Pass nearly excluded the non-local traders from Chitral thereby reducing the demand for the commodity.

Pine-nut forest in scattered segments (3,000 hectares) is found in southern Chitral embracing the valleys of Arandu, Damil, Sheshi Koh, all three Kalash valleys, Gahiret and the forests flanking the city forming Chitral Gol National Park.

The head of non-timber forest produce of environment department; Ejaz Ahmed, told this correspondent that the congenial and ideal climatic conditions this year had led to a bumper produce of 6.5 tonnes against 3.6 tonnes the previous year.

He said that besides this individuals in the villages also collected the seeds during the harvest season and earned up to Rs3,500 a day.

He said that his department was running a chilgoza-specific project to train and facilitate the collectors who had been provided with tool kits for harvesting the cones safely from the branches and twigs.

Mr Ahmed said that previously the traders bought the pine cones from the villagers at lower prices and chafed the seeds, but this year his project facilitated them to separate the seeds from the cones and then sell them to earn higher dividends.

He said that the local dry fruit market was teeming with chilgoza as a major chunk of the produce this year was bought by the locals.

He said the local people could afford to buy pine nuts at as low as Rs1,500 per kilogramme to send the same as gift to their near and dear ones.

He said that the chilgoza of Chitral forests was known in the country and abroad for its fine quality and taste.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2020

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