ISLAMABAD    -     'Chilghoza', a popular dry fruit, has gone beyond the purchasing power of the common man, as its increasing price has made it inaccessible. The price of pine nuts, locally known as chilghoza, has jumped from Rs 4,000 per kilogramme to Rs 9,000 per kilogramme. Islamabad based merchant of dry fruit told APP that chilghoza was produced in Waziristan, Suleiman Mountain Range of Zhob and Sherani districts, Kalash, and Gilgit-Baltistan but decline in production, increased cost of collection, roasting, sorting, and packing practices had doubled the prices.

Moreover, after the decrease in local production of chilghoza and import of Afghanistan's chilghoza by China, its price had also increased locally as earlier Afghan merchants used to export their chilghoza to Pakistan, he added. The local production, he said, could get a significant boost if proper facilities and technical support were provided to the farmers keeping in view the climate change impacts on the production of the pine nuts, adding that the agricultural experts should help grow local species of chilghoza trees for increasing its production. Prices of other dry fruits in Islamabad are also high, he added.

An importer of dry fruit told APP that the market rates of dry fruits had doubled due to transport cost while reaching the capital. "Almonds in shells from Iran or Afghanistan are bought at Rs 700 per kg in Quetta dry fruits market and shipped northward to sell at Rs1200 to Rs1600 per kg in Islamabad," he added. He said the prices of other dry fruits like cashew nut, pistachio, and walnuts had also been increased due to problems in importing the commodity and corresponding increase in demand of the dry fruit.

Meanwhile, most of the traders alleged that short supplies from main dry fruit producing countries including Afghanistan and Iran due to multiple reasons were also responsible for increasing the prices. Production of almonds, mostly produced in the cold areas of Balochistan, has been affected due to drought in the region for the past many years which resulted in increase of its price to Rs1600 per kg. Similarly, the price of cashew is Rs 800 per kg at the arrival stage to markets but in federal capital it is sold at Rs1600 per kg.

Whole walnuts, grown in Gilgit-Baltistan, are being sold at Rs 600 per kg and the rate of imported commodity is Rs800/kg. While the unsalted pistachio in shells is being sold at Rs 1,200 in wholesale markets of other parts of the country. It costs Rs 1,600 in the capital city. Dry fruit prices are even higher at superstores where these are sold in attractive packaging. It is commonly observed in our society that during winter, people present dry fruits to their guests as hospitality.