THE OLIVE cultivation is reported 50,000 to 60,000 years back in Syria, Iraq, Palestines, etc. Its medicinal and nutritious benefits are also enumerated in Holy Scriptures. Oleo europea belongs to the family Oleaceae. It is an evergreen tree growing to 50 ft. in height with a spread of about 30 ft. It can be maintained up to 20 ft. height with annual pruning. The beautiful, twisted branching form is also quite unique. It can long-lived by a life expectation of 500 years. The trees are also persistent, easily developing back even when cut to the ground.
Olive is a potential oilseed crop grown in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. It has been cultivated for centuries due to its medicinal and nutritive value. Millions of wild olive trees are present in Pakistan. The feasibility of olive cultivation is mainly restricted to dry, hilly areas of the country. Many factors such as sapling availability, lack of good quality genetic material, low success rate of grafted olive trees and little awareness about economic importance contribute to reduced cultivation in the country. Sunflower, mustard, groundnut and maize are preferred for extraction of oil but are unable to meet the increasing edible oil demand. Consequently, a large amount of foreign exchange is spent on edible oil import each year.
The decrease in water availability for agricultural lands in past few decades has increased the susceptibility to environmental stresses particularly drought. Olive cultivation can help to overcome these problems as it can also be grown on low fertility soils, in desert areas and requires little water to complete its growth and development. Moreover, it sustains the fragile natural resources and is a big source of oil rich in nutritional fats. The tropical climate of the country is most suitable for olive cultivation. Many olive varieties have been identified by Barani Agricultural Research Institute for Pakistan. The cultivation of olive in arid and semi-arid regions such as Chakwal, Fateh jang, Zhob, Loralai, Killa Saifullah, Barkhan, North Waziristan, Bajaur Agency, Mohmand Agency, Kurram Agency, Hangu, Khyber Agency, South Waziristan, Malakand, Charsadda and Haripur would not only increase agricultural area but will also help to improve edible oil production in the country. Izhar Group of Companies has planted 30,000 plants in region near Kallar Kahar.
Pakistan has approximately 15% desert areas of its total area. Desert areas can be utilized by cultivating olive trees. India cultivated 260 ha of Rajasthans desert in 2008 which is successful fruiting. Thar and Cholistan desert has the same climatic conditions as Rajasthans desert of India. Olive cultivation can be a good source of income for people living in desert areas of Pakistan. Furthermore, it would lead to the establishment of new olive nurseries, manufacturing of olive medicinal products, olive orchards, and oil extraction mills, pickle industries, daily paid labor, technical workers, fruit picking and marketing opportunities all over the Pakistan that would open new ways for generating income in these impoverished areas. Olive cultivation will be magnificent source of olive oil export and source of foreign exchange earnings business. Last but not the least; it would help to save the foreign exchange of the country that may be used for other purposes.