The Punjab Government in Pakistan plans to use the naturally well-drained soil and climatic conditions of Punjab wastelands to promote olive farming.
Several districts in Punjab — Sialkot, Narowal, Gujrat, Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Attock, Chakwal and Khushab — have been identified as suitable for cultivation of olive trees, according to the Daily Times, Pakistan.
The decision to grow olive trees in the marginal and wasteland areas of Punjab has the advantage of not interfering with the cultivation of other crops already produced in the region. According to Pakissan.com, Pakistan’s Largest Agricultural Web Portal, Punjab has 1.74 million hectares of culturable wasteland.
The program to plant olive trees by the Punjab government would not only increase the use of wastelands for farming purposes but also pave the way for Pakistan to become self-sufficient in production of edible oil to meet the needs of the nation.
At present, Pakistan only produces 34 percent of edible oil required for domestic needs, while 66 percent of edible oil is imported. The Daily Times of Pakistan reports that the potential of olive oil production in Punjab could dramatically cut imports of edible oil and be economically beneficial for Pakistan.
In an effort to promote olive farming and maximize crop yields from olive farms, the Agriculture Department in Punjab is training its people on optimal olive cultivation techniques and olive products.
The Punjab Government also has plans to create an “Olive Valley” over the next five years on 50,000 acres of land in the Potohar region of Punjab, an area that has ideal soil and climatic conditions for olive cultivation.
A seminar hosted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Agriculture, Government of Punjab in November 2015 discussed opportunities and challenges faced in the development of an olive valley in the Potohar region of Punjab.
“Government of Punjab has planned to develop the Potohar tract as olive valley for which a project with cost of PKR 2782 million ($26.5 million) is being implemented. Under this project 15,100 acres will be brought under olive cultivation by providing 2.0385 million plants free of cost in five years,” stated the secretary of the Punjab Department of Agriculture, Sheheryar Sultan.
In addition to increasing olive cultivation, the Punjab government aims to increase production of sunflower oil in the region by utilizing 87,000 acres of land for sunflower cultivation.