Farm in Gilgit Baltistan, Northern Pakistan

The Government of Punjab has announced they will pro­vide 473,500 olive saplings free to farm­ers as part of their five-year project to develop olive groves in the region’s “Olive Valley.” To qual­ify for the saplings Farmers must meet cer­tain cri­te­ria and sub­mit their appli­ca­tions by the tomor­row.

The project aims to pro­mote local pro­duc­tion of olive oil and reduce the hefty import bills for edi­ble oils. The Barani Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) advo­cates cul­ti­vat­ing 250 trees per hectare of land with an expected olive oil yield of 600 liters. With the price of olive oil in Pakistan stand­ing at around Rs 500 ($4) per liter, farm­ers could bring in Rs 300,000 ($2,437) if they used a hectare of their land for grow­ing olives.

The Provincial Agriculture Department have laid down spe­cific rules and pro­ce­dures that farm­ers are required to com­ply with in order to qual­ify for the imported saplings. Farmers who have ade­quate irri­ga­tion facil­i­ties to nur­ture an olive grove and those who qual­ify for a 70-per­cent sub­sidy towards irri­ga­tion are in line to ben­e­fit from the free olive trees.

Over a mil­lion olive trees have already been planted in the Pothwar region of the Olive Valley, which spreads across; Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Jhelum, the Attock dis­trict of Potohar, Mianwali and Khushab, accord­ing to BARI.

Earlier this year 120,000 olive trees were planted in Pakistan’s south-west Balochistan province as part of a cam­paign launched by the Pakistan Agriculture and Research Council (PARC). Half of the saplings were reared in Pakistan and the remain­der were imported from Italy.

Back in 2011, the gov­ern­ment of Punjab pre­pared a detailed plan for the pro­mo­tion of olive grow­ing in the region. The aim was to make Pakistan self-suf­fi­cient in olive oil by plant­ing new trees as well as graft­ing exist­ing wild olive vari­eties. Farmers were offered train­ing in mod­ern olive cul­ti­va­tion meth­ods and encour­aged to pro­duce olives by the agri­cul­tural depart­ment of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) in Punjab.

Pakistan took its first seri­ous steps into olive cul­ti­va­tion in 1986 with a project funded by the Italian gov­ern­ment. Subsequent olive grow­ing projects have had vary­ing degrees of suc­cess.

The Pothwar region in the north-east of Pakistan was ear­marked to become an “Olive Valley” after its cli­mate and ter­rain were rec­og­nized as being suit­able for olive pro­duc­tion. Under a five-year plan ini­ti­ated by PARC, 2.4 mil­lion olive trees are sched­uled for plant­ing by 2020.




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