Presiding over a meeting of High Economic Council on Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani assigned a team to work on ways that could help to enhance the exports of Afghan pine nuts abroad, a move which will have significant impacts on boosting local economies particularly in Afghanistan’s urban areas.
Ghani thanked the Khost governor, Hukum Habibi, for his efforts to increase the trade of pine nuts in the province, saying government will provide equal opportunities to all provincial governors to boost the sector.
In turn, the Khost governor said his province is unique in terms of having fertile land for agriculture and that it has the right climate for pine nuts. He also said thousands of tons of dry fruit from Khost is exported to various countries every year.
Khost is known for its moderate climate, forests, mines and pine nuts and walnuts.
According to Habibi, Afghanistan exports 30,000 to 33,000 tons of pine nuts annually – a sector that also creates jobs for local people.
The meeting was also attended by high level government officials including Naseer Ahmad Durani, acting minister of agriculture, irrigation and livestock; Humayoun Rasa, minister of commerce; Mustafa Mastoor, acting minister of economy and MP Obaidullah Ramin.
The officials said government must ensure that the exports of Afghanistan’s pine nuts are carried out in a professional manner and under the name of Afghanistan.
They also said revenue generated from the export of pine nuts must be tackled transparently and distributed fairly.
Ghani said a joint team of officials from the ministries of agriculture, economy, finance, commerce and the office of the presidential advisor on banking affairs must work together to find ways to help boost the sector.
Pine nut trees are mostly found in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan, Kunar, Paktia, Khost and Paktika provinces. Pine nuts also constitutes one of the major income sources for local people.
A recent report Pine Nuts Global Report one of the major drivers for this market is the multiple health benefits associated with pine nuts.
The report found that as consumers around the world become more health conscious, there has been an exponential increase in the consumption of natural food products.
“Consumers are becoming more conscious about their health and fitness and paying more attention to the nutritional content of the food that they consume. The health-conscious population demands foods that have lower calorie content but have the right combination of essential nutrients. Hence, healthy eating has increased the demand for pine nuts as they are unprocessed and contain vitamins, fibers, and naturally occurring minerals,” read the report.
Health Benefits of Pine Nuts
* Pine nuts are one of the calorie-rich edible nuts. 100g of dry kernels provide 673 calories. Additionally, they comprise of numerous health promoting phytochemicals, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
* Their high caloric content chiefly comes from fats. Indeed, the nuts are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid that helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increases HDL or "good cholesterol" in the blood
* Pine or cedar nuts contain essential fatty acid (the omega-6 fat), pinolenic acid. Recent research has shown its potential use in weight loss by curbing appetite. Pinolenic acid triggers the release of hunger-suppressant enzymes cholecystokinin and Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the gut. Also, pinolenic acid has thought to have LDL-lowering properties by enhancing hepatic LDL uptake.
* Likewise in almonds, pine nuts too are an excellent source of vitamin-E. Vitamin-E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucosa and skin by protecting it from harmful free oxygen radicals.
* Furthermore, pine nuts are one of the gluten-free tree nuts, and therefore, are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. Such formula preparations can be a healthy alternative for people with wheat allergies and celiac disease.
* Pine nuts are an excellent source of the B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. These vitamins work as co-factors for enzymes in cellular substrate metabolism inside the human body.
* Furthermore, pine nuts contain healthy amounts of essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Pine nuts are one of the richest sources of manganese. Manganese is an all-important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Therefore, consumption of pine kernels helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
Afghanistan is known throughout the world for its fresh and dry fruits. But years of war and violence have hindered the country for taking full advantage of what its land and natural resources offer.