Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Department of Agriculture Research is pursuing an ambitious plan to increase olive cultivation in the province and its tribal districts in collaboration with the federal government.
Agriculture officials said that KP has between 600,000 hectares and 700,000 hectares of land suitable for olive cultivation and production and can save $3.6 billion which Pakistan spends on the import of olive oil every year.
If the area is brought under cultivation, Pakistan will be in a position to export olive oil, officials added.
After petroleum, Pakistan spent Rs225.69 billion every year on import of edible oil, including soybean, palm oil, and others.
According to sources, the department has started work on the plantation of millions of olive trees during the next five years.
The suitable land in the province is currently barren, therefore, it will not affect the production of any other crop. Project Director Ahmed Syed explained that demand for olive cultivation in KP is on the rise. He said that in the past, there were no buyers for the olives in the province but now the olives are being purchased from farmers at Rs100 to Rs120 per kg. Currently, the crop is being cultivated in Dir, Swat, Abbottabad, and Nowshera, which can bring us 6,000 liters of olive oil, he added.
KP olive production can play an important role in the country’s economy.
Sources said that 50 percent of the tribal districts including Bajaur, Kurram, North and South Waziristan are suitable for olive cultivation. They said that under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), the farmers in these districts are helped in planting the olive crop.
Officials said that the cultivation of olives in these areas will not only protect the environment but also create many employment opportunities for the people at the local level in these areas as well as other districts of the province including Nowshera, Mardan, Swat, Peshawar as well as the southern districts.
An olive grower from Nowshera district told that he had planted olives on 43 acres, from which has already acquired the third commercial crop. He said that initially, there was a decline in production due to lack of experience but now with better management and advice from the agriculture research center, his fields’ production has increased.
He said that at present, he as 7,000 olive trees, which are producing an average of 25 kg of olives per tree and can produce three to four thousand liters of oil annually. Currently, most of KP districts have suitable land for olive cultivation.