Kabul Cargo Flights Set To Resume With Pine Nut Shipment

In the last month and a half, the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan and reshaped the government and much of society while gradually reopening the aviation sector. This week, it was publicized by the country’s chamber of commerce that international air cargo would be operational from next week.

In June of 2017, the Afghan-India air corridor was opened up. Kabul airport workers are shown here loading the first cargo plane bound for India. Photo: Getty Images

Starting with pine nuts

It’s been almost two months since shocking imagery was broadcast worldwide showing desperate Afghans storming the Kabul Airport, hoping to leave before the Taliban takeover.

Since then, we’ve seen the country stabilize to some extent, with the government resuming domestic flights while allowing international charter flights to take place as well.

Indian media outlet Republic World reported this week that the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) has announced that it will resume international cargo transportation starting next week. Specifically, it was announced that the first flight would be used to transport pine nuts.

Announced on October 7th, ACCI Investment deputy head Mohammad Younis Mohmand said that this first international cargo flight would take place in just four or five days. “Flights are ready, InshAllah (God Willing), maybe in four or five days the first cargo flight abroad will take place,” Mohmand reported via Ariana News.

Kabul’s Airport was extensively damaged as US forces withdrew in August. Photo: Getty Images

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Pine nuts and Afghanistan

In case you weren’t aware, pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees. Inside a hard and inedible nut casing, these seeds are the edible portion.

Afghanistan is one of the largest exporters of pine nuts in the world, behind countries like Russia, Mongolia, and China. A 2017 report from the Eurasia Review noted that Afghanistan exported nearly 3,500 tonnes of pine nuts in 2016, having a value of $77 million. With increased rainfall and a better harvest, that figure could easily increase.

Indeed, the Afghanistan Pine Nuts Union (via Xinhuanet) reports that there are 40 registered small and medium-sized pine nut trading companies in the country. Over 50,000 people, mostly women, make up the population of farmers that grow and harvest the commodity from nearby forests and hilltops.

With all of this in mind, it makes sense why the country wishes to make it one of the first cargo shipments flown out of the country as air corridors reopen.

PIA Kabul return
PIA flew a chartered 777 out of the country in September. Photo: Getty Images

Indeed, a day before the government announcement, the Afghanistan Pine Nuts Union called on the Taliban to ban the smuggling of dried fruits, including pine nuts, saying:

“Afghanistan Pine Nuts Union, according to its strategic plan, wants to export the pine nuts to the world markets like before…” (via Xinhuanet)

Further reopening

We recently reported that the Taliban is also in talks with India for a resumption of flights between the two countries, with the Indian government now reviewing the situation.

In a letter addressed to India’s aviation regulator, the DGCA, the acting minister of Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority Alhaj Hameedullah Akhunzada has assured that Kabul Airport has been made capable of handling commercial flights again, stating,

“The intention of this letter is to keep the smooth passenger movement between two countries based on the signed MoU and our National Carriers (Ariana Afghan Airline & Kam Air) aimed to commence their scheduled flights. Therefore, Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority requests you to facilitate their commercial flights.”

What do you think of air operations resuming in and out of Afghanistan? Should countries with opposing values be doing business with the Taliban-controlled country? Let us know by leaving a comment.