Sprawling olive farming has sparked a silent revolution in the Pothohar region, and the initiative has listed Pakistan the 19th member of the International Olive Council. “Pakistan, with suitable swaths of land and environment for olive cultivation, has the potential to become one of the leading olive exporters,” said Dr Imam-ul-Haq, a horticulturist associated with Barani Agricultural Research Institute Chakwal, while talking to WealthPK. He said the fields of Pothohar region in Punjab province have a suitable climate for olive cultivation, as wild olives grow abundantly in areas such as Kallar Kahar, Khora, Mandial, Kunhati Bagh and Kufri areas.
Dr Imam said olive plantation is being carried out with limited capacity in different areas of the country. However, he said, owing to suitable climate, Chakwal has been named as “Olive Valley”. He said it takes five years for an olive seedling to bear fruits with proper care. Dr Imam said Pakistan has the potential to surpass Spain, the world’s largest olive oil producer, as it has 10 million acres of land suitable for growing olives, much more than Spain’s olive-growing areas.
Pakistan is producing approximately 1,500 tons of olive oil per year and 830 tons of table olives, bringing new financial opportunities for farmers and also helping the country to cut its import bill. During the last decade, large-scale cultivation of olive plants in Pothohar region of Punjab and northern areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, particularly in Bajaur tribal district, has begun to deliver fruitful results. The initiative has helped tackle some of the effects of climate change such as soil erosion and desertification, and generate new opportunities to farmers.
“By utilising all available resources, Pakistan will not only be able to meet its own olive and edible oil needs, but it will also enhance Pakistan’s capability to even export it because the quality of olive oil produced in Pakistan is far better than that of Italy and Spain,” he said. Similarly, he said, the flourishing olive plantation in northern Pakistan is creating job opportunities and hopes are high that grafting of native and ancient olive trees with modern ones will help grow lucrative groves in the areas bordering Afghanistan. Muhammad Israr, an olive farmer from Bajaur, said the local people have limited job opportunities and many of them have moved to urban areas for work. However, he said, olive cultivation has given them a new hope. By producing olive oil locally, the country can significantly cut its oil import bill, which currently hovers around $20 billion.
Credit: Independent News Pakistan-WealthPk