Olive project being launced

Olives

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa project for olive plantation

By Tahir Ali Khan

June 27, 2011

A Rs60 million project for planting olive trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been proposed in the provincial development strategy.

“The project is based on public-private partnership. The agriculture department will provide certified olive saplings, technology and guidance to farmers while the orchard owners would provide land and labour. We have signed MOUs under which farmers would give a certain portion of their olive plants to the government for extension purposes,” said Ahmad Said, the chief planning officer in the provincial agriculture department.

The project is for lands on which major food crops are not grown. Olive is a strong plant that needs little water and fertiliser and can be grown anywhere, even in mountainous areas,” he added.

Ahmad says around 60 per cent area of KP was suitable for olive cultivation. If we could utilise even 20 per cent of it by planting new olive plants, it will reduce oil import bill besides increasing the incomes of millions of farmers and providing them with healthy oil for domestic consumption.

“We are trying to standardise the olive production technology as has been done in Italy which is growing millions of olive plants in a very short time. We have proposed another project for tissue culture technology through which plants can be grown in shortest possible time. The existing mechanism of fruit cultivation and fructification takes years. The tissue technology can produce millions of plants and ensure fruit-bearing sooner than usually possible,” he informed.

“While the public sector is trying its best to provide maximum certified olive plants to growers, we are facilitating and registering plant nurseries in the private sector. These nurseries will be regularly monitored to ensure quality of production of the fruit plantlets. We hope this way the use of non-fruit bearing olive plants would be minimised,” he added.

With only Rs10 million out of the total earmarked sum of Rs60 million have been allocated for the project in the next year’s ADP, it may take another five to six years for the project to be completed unless fund allocations are enhanced later.

Pakistan faces a widening gap between edible oil requirements and domestic production which is bridged by huge imports of edible oil and oilseeds.

Over 60 per cent of the tribal belt has wild olive trees that can be converted into fruit-bearing species.

According to an Italian expert Raffaele Del Cima, the province has over 444,574 hectares of cultivable wasteland which is suitable for olive cultivation. According to another estimate, well over 880,000 hectares could be used for olive cultivation.

There are an estimated 31 million wild olive trees in KP and tribal belt that bear no or a seed-sized fruit. Converting them into European type fruit bearing olive through budding/grafting procedure in the next few years should be the foremost priority of the government as it will help produce an estimated 75,000 tons of olive oil. The Pakistan Oilseeds Development Board has recently converted some wild olive plants in KP into fruit bearing trees. Italy, the world’s biggest olive producer with 1.2 million hectares under olive cultivation, has helped Pakistan to convert its wild olive plants into fruit-bearers, and also with new olive plantations.

The government and private sector need to cooperate for improving cultivation and harvest techniques in olive production, species selection, nursery management, oil analysis and the operation of oil extraction units.

By providing quality seed, modern training and marketing mechanism to the farmers, olive cultivation and yield could be considerably increased. The government may also encourage farmers to set up olive oil extraction units in different parts of the province.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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