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Takhar Pistachio Yield Increases Two-Fold This Year

Pistachio makes his comeback in Afghanistan

Monday 7 September 2015, by Catherine BISSON-SERIAN

TALUQAN (Pajhwok Afghan News) — The residents of Farkhar district in northern Takhar province on Tuesday recorded the pistachio yield two-fold this year compared to the previous year. The area is rugged with no plains to grow other products and pistachio is the only source of income.

Farmer collected between 70 to 420 kilograms of pistachio but last year nobody could get more than 175 kilograms of the dry fruit. Agriculture Director Mohammad Salim Saee said there was more production of pistachio in the Farkhar district compared to other places. He said heavy rainfall, floods and gusts had damaged the pistachio production in other areas of the country.

Afghanistan once had more than 450,000 hectares of pistachio trees, of which 40% have been destroyed, according to the ministry of agriculture. Officials there attribute this destruction to the effects of the last 30 years of fighting — when the jurisdiction of the central government in the provinces was weak or non-existent — and have now submitted a bill to parliament to protect the pistachio forests, spread throughout the country.

The problem is particularly acute in the north-west province of Badghis, which has Afghanistan’s highest concentration of pistachio forests. Residents say that poverty and the lack of any other source of fuel is forcing them to cut down the trees for firewood.

Former director of agriculture in Badghis Gol Ahmad Arefi says that 50% of the province’s 95,000 hectares of pistachio forests — whose crop, he says, was once worth over $100 mln annually — have already been destroyed. Each year, he went on, another 200 hectares of pistachio forest is lost.

Pistachio trees grow wild in Afghanistan and are wild-harvested for sale, but are not yet domesticated for orchard production. Priority Problems include deforestation of pistachio forests; the pistachios harvested from semi-domestic systems are wild varieties; no work has been done on which domestic varieties may be best suited to Afghanistan.

Priority Opportunities include the dual purpose of pistachios for both reforestation and crop production. They can be used in stabilizing slopes and producing nuts. Male wild pistachio trees produce no nuts, however, once male seedling are established, they can serve as rootstocks for desired (female) scion grafts. Pistachio tree can grow in the wild as well as planted in orchards. It takes approximately seven to ten years to reach significant production. Trees can grow up to 10 meters high therefore, in orchards, they are usually pruned to size to make harvest easier. Pistachio tree is highly resistant to drought.

Most pistachio forests are located in the Rustaq, Cha Ab, Yangi Kala and Baharak districts of the province.

Although Afghanistan is one of the top 10 producers of Pistachio in the world, it still has a long way to go especially when it comes to the volume of production compared to top producers such as Iran, the United States, Turkey, Syria, China, Italy, etc.

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