The New breed: Pakistan olive plantation intiatives

Pakistan olive projects

By Tahir Ali

With high global demand and rising prices in the international market and Pakistan’s annual edible oil import bill exceeding $2bn, the rationale of recent olive cultivation initiatives in the country cannot be overemphasized.

Olive demand globally is on the rise. Germans are using five times more and British ten times more olive than they did in 1990. In America, olive demand is growing by 6% annually for two decades now. Olive prices in world market have doubled to $3,400 a ton recently.

Pakistan has over 0.8mn hectares of wasteland suitable for olive cultivation. An official of the now defunct Pakistan Oil Seeds Development Board (PODB) had told this writer that by covering the area with olive plants, Pakistan can produce around 1.84mn tons of olive oil. This would fetch over $6bn at the current rate of olive in world market.

Olive is used in foods, pickles, medicines, food preservation, textile industry and cosmetic preparation etc. Special restaurants dealing in olive foods have also been opened in various cities of the country.

The Pakistan agricultural research council (PARC) has begun implementing the project “Promotion of olive cultivation for economic development and poverty alleviation” whereby olive plants will be cultivated on 300 hectares in Baluchistan, 100 hectares in KP, 300 hectares in federally administered tribal areas and 100 hectares in the Pothohar region of Punjab.

The Rs382mn project to be completed in three years is being under the Pakistan Italian debt-for-development swap agreement.

The Punjab government has declared the Pothowar region as Olive Valley. It recently distributed thousands of olive plants amongst olive growers and trained them.

The Punjab Agriculture and Meat Company also plans to develop 10 certified nurseries. These nurseries –being opened through private sector in Attock, Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Jehlum and Khushab districts –would have a catchment area of 27000 acres and would have an impact of $78mn.

The potential area suitable for olive cultivation is around 8mn acres in Punjab of which 0.4mn is being targeted though this initiative. Total impact of this land, if covered, would be $1.16bn.

Similarly, in KP’s budget for 2012-13, a Rs100mn project –research and development on European olive and maintenance of model olive farm Sangbhatti Mardan –has been started and allocated Rs15mn this year.

As the PODB stands dissolved, Sangbhatti olive farm, one of its assets, has been handed over to the directorate of agriculture research in KP.

“The department will provide olive plantlets, grafts and buds produced in the Sangbhatti farm to farmers. Though the production of olive nursery is limited at present, it is nevertheless sufficient for the time being,” said an official of KP agriculture ministry wishing anonymity.

“Despite our efforts, mass resort to olive plantation is however unlikely in the immediate future,” the official added.

Pakistan has been unable to increase its olive acreage and yield for indifference by successive governments, lack of private sector’s interest, focus on other cash crops, security situation in KP and tribal belt, too few olive nurseries and marketing worries. It only has 1130 acres of land under productive olive trees and the crop is yet to be inserted into the cropping system.

The question arises: will the new initiatives succeed?

While olive farmers usually grow olive haphazardly, the problem is multiplied by non-availability of standard olive plants and restricted mobility of local and foreign experts in the olive-rich but militancy-hit tribal belt, KP and Baluchistan. This explains why there has been of late a shift of focus to other parts of the country.

Olive acreage and yield could be increased by providing quality seed, polythene rolls for wrapping round the buds/grafts to save them from cold and moisture, modern training and marketing support to olive farmers. Have similar interventions been planned?

Pakistan has over 0.8mn hectares suitable area for olive but as most farmers on fertile lands prefer other crops, the potential area may be around 0.264mh. Even if a third of this area is brought under olive cultivation, around 25mn olive seedlings would be needed (@250 trees per hectare) over the next few years. Has this been considered?

Pakistan need to shift to tissue culture technology, standardise its nursery production and open more germplasm units to provide enough olive seeds, buds and grafts.

Olive tree usually bears fruit after 4-5 years. However, Sultan Ali Khan, a farmer from Swat, said his community had grafted around 40000 wild olive trees but only 5000 of them have been successful and have started bearing fruit after 7-8 years.

Shafeeq Ahmad from Swari Buner said an olive plant could bear over 40-45kg of fruit if sufficient care, protection, pesticides and fertilisers are provided to the plants.

“We planted 600 olive plants on a mountain ridge around ten years ago but it is yet to bear plentiful fruit. Bearing of fruit was late and paltry because the orchards could not be looked after well nor were provided sufficient and timely doses of fertiliser and pesticides as the farmers were not given guidance and help,” he told the TNS.

Another problem is that very ambitious projects are launched but are later forgotten. For example, there is no mention of the projects of establishment of olive orchards in KP and that of research, development and promotion of olive in KP which were allocated funds in the last two budgets but not in this fiscal and have been left out incomplete.

A report on the Malakand olive development prepared by ISCOS, an international organisation, had urged induction of more olive technicians, modern training for them and increase in their salaries, introduction of a system of reward for successful olive farmers, subsidized provision of olive plants, sensitizing farmers against cutting and grazing of animals in olive orchards and an in-depth dialogue and interaction between all the stakeholders in the olive production chain.

The PODB had converted quite a few wild olive plants into fruit bearing trees. That process needs to be continued.

The planners also need to ensure olive production is developed on commercial lines and its enterprises facilitated.

Where and how to plant?

Olives are grown by the methods of budding and grafting of wild olive trees or planting of new trees. However farmers have found the method of grafting the most successful. A research showed that around 80-90% olive trees grown through T-Grafting technique from August to September were successful.

The areas with an altitude between 400 and 1,700 meters, slope of 20°, rainfall between 250 mm and 1,000 mm and having a warm, semi arid, winter rain climate are mostly suitable for olive plants.

Olive production varies on the basis of temperature and rainfall. Rain falls abundantly in March (olive flowering season) and in summer in Pakistan. This rain pattern could pose threats for the olive cultivation –the first may heavily reduce the production and the second –rainfall in summer –could make it prone to various plant diseases. It requires extra care and more use of pesticides.

Olive trees can endure low temperature of even -9° C but these can hardly tolerate it at vegetative stage. It however needs a bit low temperatures in winter to be able to produce good amount of inflorescences and flowers in spring.

Olives require well drained soils for adequate growth. Heavily clayish or sandy soils or one prone to water logging should be avoided.

The common diseases in olive plants are trunk decay, sooty mould and peacock spot, which decay and dry up the tree.

The olive trees need more nitrogenous fertilizer than phosphorous and potash. The latter two fertilizers should be mixed in the soil before planting of trees at the rate of 200 kg and 300 kg per hectare respectively. Best time of nitrogen fertilizer is pre-flowering and stone-hardening stage.

About Tahir Ali Khan (Official)
I am an academic, columnist, and a social worker.

20 Responses to The New breed: Pakistan olive plantation intiatives

  1. Allah has gifted us with Pakistan which is full of His bounties.
    Olive is mentioned in The Quran as Blessed Tree.

    I have been involved in “Olive Pakistan” for last four years or so.

    I have vast experience in mobilizing, encouraging, farmers and land owners in the regions of KPK & Punjab, specifically Naushera, Mardan, Malakand, Swat, Deer, Abbottabad, Attock, Pindi, Chakwal and Khushab Districts.

    The new plantations done during 2010 – 2012 period will start bearing fruits from 2014 and this will add another few thousand kilos of fruit. In 2012 the bulk of about 40,000 trees are planted, and this year it will atleast 3 times.

    OLIVES can bring a bright future for our farmers in Arid Zones


    • Thanks sir.Thanks for the information.


    • mazhar mustafa abbasi says:

      this is mazhar mustafa ,its nice to read your part of story and experience you have in the olive cultivation .i live in murree tehsil and we have a wild tree know as kahoo which resembles with olve tree .experienced people says that it is a good sign to have this tree in the area ,means olive can be grown in the area.wanted to know where can i get olive plants and how can i grow this tree in my area.


      • thanks for your words of encouragement. I am only a columnist and don’t cultivate olive or distribute its saplings. One Muhammad Azam Nazir Sheikh had sent me (You can see and read his message below in the comment section). he claims he has worked a lot on the plantation of olive in pakistan. here is the link to his website.

        he had told me “Allah has gifted us with Pakistan which is full of His bounties.
        Olive is mentioned in The Quran as Blessed Tree.

        I have been involved in “Olive Pakistan” for last four years or so.

        I have vast experience in mobilizing, encouraging, farmers and land owners in the regions of KPK & Punjab, specifically Naushera, Mardan, Malakand, Swat, Deer, Abbottabad, Attock, Pindi, Chakwal and Khushab Districts.

        The new plantations done during 2010 – 2012 period will start bearing fruits from 2014 and this will add another few thousand kilos of fruit. In 2012 the bulk of about 40,000 trees are planted, and this year it will atleast 3 times.

        OLIVES can bring a bright future for our farmers in Arid Zones.”
        You may contact him or any other person but kindly do that after verification and thorough investigation and remember that you will be doing so on your own responsibility.


      • shahzad malik says:

        Dear Mazhar Mustafa Abbasi,

        I also want to cultivate Olive have you cultivate ?


      • Dear Mazhar,
        Kahoo can be grafted to become olive friut bearing trees

        for deails and guidance on how, please call me.
        0333 6591777


    • wahab khan says:

      Dear Brother, thanks for the information. The benefits of olive is well known. Majority of people are suffering from heart and other desease in pakistan these days. its called shajra mubarek. I have been to different countries who are cultivating olive, and no doubt they are more healthy because of this oil. I still remember the breakfast in morocco where you can find in all the restutrant olive .
      I want to cultivate the olive in mardan . I am living abroad and would appreciate to help and guide me who to start . my email is .
      thanks once again and Jazakallaho kharin


  2. shahzad malik says:

    Dear Sir,
    I want to purchase Olive Seeds kindly tell me name of place ?


  3. Let’s not keep on thinking, act now
    A thousand mile journey starts with single step.
    0 3 3 3 6 5 9 1 7 7 7


  4. Fahad Muneeb says:

    Very useful information.

    I wish i could plant Olive trees too, but climate at our place in Bahawalpur in not suitable.


  5. Fahad Muneeb says:

    I wish i could plant Olive trees too,
    But climate here in my city Bahawalpur is not suitable.


    • Aftab Mahar says:

      Got shah Mohammad main Varaich farm house pay lava hai n fit jaa raha hai wahan or unho NY cultivation b start kr de hai


  6. Muhammad Fayaz says:

    I am from mardan, I have 02 acer land, normally we use our land for sugar cane & tobacco crops, we have plenty of water. Please tell me this land will be suitable for zaitoon plantation and also want to know the profitability/acer after receiving fruit and when the tree will be ready for fruit.


  7. Dear All

    If you have land inarea between Mianwali – Muzaffarabad, and Between Chakwal – Chitral, FATA, Baluchistan areas, and is baren / arid, scope of growing olives is great. 10 years of hard work & patience, and then 1000 years of generations earnings.


  8. awais says:

    sir i am from mardan and want to take my M phil thises on olive plantation in mardan kindly guide me about the projects and their achievments


  9. Assalam o Alaikum
    Nice discussion. Great appreciation for Tahir Ali Khan (Official) for all this.

    we have created a Facebook Group “Olive Valley Punjab”. Kindly join us at if you are interested in growing olives in Punjab, Pakistan. Also welcome for any query on olive production and management.
    Dr. Muhammad Ramzan Anser
    Olive Centre,
    Barani Agricultural Research Institute, Chakwal
    +92 333 6837737


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