The olive revolution

The government has already launched a Rs500 million mechanised farming programme to push the production



by

Nisthula Nagarajan

Published: Tue 23 Mar 2021, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 29 Sep 2021, 6:21 AM

Pakistan has the chance to be a world-leading olive producer. In the last decade, there has been an increasing trend of olive cultivation in Pakistan after the import of 100,000 olive seedlings from renowned olive producing countries like Turkey, Spain, and Italy. The ultimate goal is to cultivate olives for commercial purposes. Pakistan’s climate is conducive for their cultivation, as they grow fast in areas with moderate winters following long hot summers.

Recently, a silent revolution has been underway with farmers in the Potohar region taking to planting olive groves. Farmers in arid zones can have another source of revenue while also saving the country billions of dollars spent on importing edible oil. As the water resources of the country can shrink in the future, new cultivation methods were needed and those in Chakwal, Potohar realised that growing olives would not only help boost their income but would also protect the environment.

The government plans on planting 50 million olive trees in the country as part of the 10 billion Tree Tsunami programme. The prime minister launched this pro- gramme in the Nowshera district saying that plantation of other local fruits would also be included. He said that in a few years, the ‘#OliveTreeTsunami’ can prove to be the best investment for the country in terms of earning valuable foreign ex- change and ensuring food security, bring- ing overhauling uplifts in multiple sectors of Pakistan.

Currently, it is being cultivated in a limited capacity in different areas of Pakistan, especially the Pothohar region, which has been given the title ‘Olive Val- ley’ due to its climate and surroundings resembling conditions considered most suitable for the cultivation of olives.

TARGETING NEIGHBOUR MARKETS

Spain is the world’s largest olive oil producer, with more than half of the world’s production. Though producing countries have always been the biggest consumers of olive oil, consumption in Asia, the United States, and Australia is also increasing. Pakistan should ideally focus on the closest largest market, China.

Pakistan has 10 million acres suitable for cultivation, which is far more than Spain. Pakistan has been dependent on olive producer countries, which costs Pakistan $2 billion per year but producing olive on its native lands may help Pakistan not only fulfil its own need but also export it to other countries as the quality of Pakistani olive oil has been proven far better than Spain’s. Pakistan has a large area of suitable land for the cultivation of olives as well.

IMPROVEMENTS BEFORE CULTIVATION

By 2027, Pakistan wants to produce 16,000 tonnes of olives. Improvements’ in the production environment, development of entrepreneur centres in villages, employment generation, improvement in livelihood, and value-addition should be the highest priority by all involved. In uneven lands of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, high precision drip irrigation systems will be installed on 400 acres of land for irrigation purposes.

Currently, Chakwal has launched an initiative to help farmers in the refining process, free of cost. Pakistan should also do the soil survey, to start cultivating from the best and most feasible areas and further boost the production of olives and avoid any losses. With ample land and temperature zones, proper planning, management and full utilisation of assets and machinery are necessary to stronghold Pakistan’s position in the top ten producers of olives.


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