Four years ago, India’s desert state of Rajasthan launched the country’s first pilot project for olive cultivation. The project is now yielding promising results with the plants having matured. The oil content in the seeds under this project is averaging about 15 percent, which is well within the international standards. Project leaders are confident that the oil content will enhance as the plants mature further.

According to Ajay Pachori, COO of the project, “Out of the seven varieties of olives for which field tests were conducted, four have been found to be suitable for the Rajasthan’s agro-climatic conditions.” The success of extensive field trials at the state-owned farms in Rajasthan has encouraged the state government to extend the scope of cultivation of olive crop to private farms from this year.

The Deccan Herald reported that Prof. Simon Levi, an Israeli agriculture scientist who is a recognized authority on olives, made a visit to Rajasthan recently. He was impressed with the results in the pilot phase and favored commercial cultivation of olives in the state. The conditions for olive cultivation are considered ideal in the Sri Gangangar, Hanumangarh, Naga¬ur and Bikaner districts of Rajasthan, which experience extended periods of chill in the winter season.

Pachori said, “We are gradually introducing the cash crop to farmers in these areas. This year we have set a target of 300 hectares. Six clusters of 50 hectares each will be formed in four districts of Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Bikaner and Nagaur.” Olive farming experts believe that cluster approach will be most beneficial in the region. “Cluster approach will help us provide free technical consultancy to the farmers for the first three years,” Pachori said.

Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Limited (ROCL), which is spearheading the project in the state, has ambitious plans to convert this pilot project into a major commercially successful venture in the years ahead. Pachori said, “We have already received application for 200 hectares and in 40 hectares the sowing has already been completed. Our target is to bring about 5,000 hectares under olive cultivation in the next three years to make it a commercially viable venture.”

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