Federal Government has decided to raise new olive orchards on 30,000 acres land during next five years in Khyber Pakthunkhwa to make Pakistan’s self-sufficient in production of edible oil.
Project Director, Olive Trees Project in KP Ahmed Syed told APP that work on the mega project was expedited in Khyber Pakthunkhwa where new olive orchards on about 30,000 acres land would be raised by 2026 under Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) aimed at to increase edible oil production.
Under the project, he said, about 4.02 million olive plants would be planted and grafting in four million wild olive would be achieved, adding entire KP especially Malakand Division, Peshawar Valley, merged areas of erstwhile FATA and right side of River Indus were most suitable for olive cultivation.
Ahmed Syed said Pakistan was blessed with varieties of soils, ecological zones and climate conditions where over 4.4 million hectares of land was available for olive plantation and if utilized properly can prove a harbinger of making the country’s self sufficient in edible oil.
Pakistan was spending billions of rupees on imports of edible oil including soybean, palm oil, sunflowers and others related commodities since 1970 and has imported around 3,000 tons olive oil worth Rs1.241 billion during 2017-18.
Ahmed Syed said Spain was producing about 45 percent of total edible oil from olive cultivation from only 2.6 million hectares while Pakistan despite having a vast suitable area of 4.4 million hectares for olive farming was importing around 75 percent edible oil for domestic consumption.
He said this foreign exchange could be saved by promoting olive farming in Pakistan. The first olive promotional project funded by Italian Government was started on June 1, 2012 in Pakistan under which plantation on 1,500 hectares were achieved. Later, the project worth Rs3.82 billion was handed over to Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Islamabad after devolution of Pakistan Oil Development Board on February 12, 2020 and was completed on June 30, 2015.
To capitalize on the good work of Italian funded project, he said Government of Pakistan had launched mega ‘Promotion of Olive Trees Cultivation on Commercial Scale’ project, which was currently underway in Punjab, KP, erstwhile FATA and Baluchistan.
He said about 10.41 million olive trees would be planted in the country including Khyber Pakthunkhwa on commercial basis. He said new olive orchards on 75,000 acres government and private lands would be raised in Pakistan by 2026,” adding about 10.41 million olive plants would be planted besides grafting in 10 million wild olive would be achieved in the country.
New orchard gardens on 13,264 acres were raised and wild olive grafting in over 470,000 plants achieved till to date, he said, adding about 168,797 kilograms fruits were produced with 19,816 litres (11.73per cent) oil production in 2020.
Punjab Government has declared Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Khushab, Attock, Jehlum of Potohar region as ‘Olive Valley” whereas Agriculture Institute Tarnab (ARI), Peshawar was declared Centre of Excellence for Research on olives and Sang Battai in Mardan as Olive Valley in KP. Nine oil extraction machines and units including at Agriculture Research Institute (ARI) Tarnab Peshawar, ARI Swat, in Kohat, Dir Lower, Shinkyari Manshera, and Talash Dir Lower were setup.
The phase-wise registration process of four private olive nurseries began in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and model olive orchards at Manki Sharif Nowshera, Bajaur, Dir Lower, and Malakand etc achieved.
Different products including Olive Pickle, green tea, olive biscuits, beverage, and sweets were prepared. He said eight certification laboratories would be setup and Pak Olive Company would be raised to ensure stability in olive business besides increasing its production and profits. He said olive cultivation was a profitable business as about Rs3,60,000 income could easily be produced per acre.
Ahmed Syed said the government would help farmers in establishment of Infrastructure for olive nurseries on equally shared matching grant basis besides setting up of fruits processing units for olive and oil extraction units in the province.
Originally published at The nation