Olive Farmers in Pakistan Seek Government Assistance to Scale Production

Some farmers in Pakistan are replacing traditional crops with olives, but need government subsidies to install irrigation systems and mill their fruits.
Olive plants
Mar. 31, 2022
Rahool Basharat

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Olive farm­ers in Pakistan value their fruits as a cash crop” but expect more sup­port from the gov­ern­ment to help them scale up their olive oil pro­duc­tion to a com­mer­cial scale.

As part of its olive cul­ti­va­tion ini­tia­tive, Pakistan plans to plant 10 mil­lion olive trees across the coun­try to become self-suf­fi­cient in olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Hopefully, in two to three years, Pakistan will sub­sti­tute its import of olive oil with its local pro­duc­tion with this mas­sive scale cul­ti­va­tion of olives and its oil pro­duc­tion in the coun­try.- Muhammad Tariq, national project direc­tor, Ministry of National Food Security and Research

Basit Shakeel Hashmi, a pio­neer­ing olive farmer from the country’s largest agri­cul­tural province, Punjab, is bull­ish about the future of olives in the South Asian coun­try.

Six years ago, he switched from grow­ing wheat and maize, tra­di­tional crops in the region, to plant­ing olive trees.

See Also:Pakistan Set to Become Olive Council Member

He told Olive Oil Times that he decided to grow olives because he was earn­ing less from tra­di­tional crops due to the uneven ter­rain. He started grow­ing olives when the provin­cial gov­ern­ment of Punjab started its olive cul­ti­va­tion pro­gram.

In his home dis­trict of Chakwal, Hashmi planted 18,000 olive trees on 100 hectares of land, includ­ing bar­ren and uneven tracts. Now, 90 per­cent of his trees are bear­ing fruit, and Hashmi sells his extra vir­gin olive oil for €18 per liter at the local mar­ket.

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My land has become gold since I turned it to olive farms,” he said. Just 5,000 olive trees lead to enough oil pro­duc­tion that helps a farmer earn more than €18,000 annu­ally, which is a hand­some amount for an agri­cul­tur­al­ist.”

Hashmi added that it was not an easy task for him due to uneven tracts in the land where he had to install a drip irri­ga­tion sys­tem fol­low­ing the advice of the government’s experts on olive cul­ti­va­tion.

Later on, he decided to try some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent and exca­vated the area to flat­ten the land and planted more olive trees.

Hashmi had grown the olive plants imported from Spain and pur­chased them with the help of gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies. Now he grows six vari­eties, among them Arbequina and Koroneiki.

Dozens of other farm­ers in the region are also fol­low­ing in his foot­steps and plant­ing olives.

Officials from the national pro­gram for the pro­mo­tion of olives and farm­ers are con­vinced that the pro­mo­tion of olive cul­ti­va­tion at a mas­sive scale on bar­ren land will end the country’s depen­dency on imported olive oil.

Figures from TrendEconomy, a trade data­base, show Pakistan imported more than €10 mil­lion of olive oil in 2020, the last year for which data are avail­able.

According to Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants, Pakistan pro­duces about 1,500 tons of olive oil per annum, all of which is des­tined for domes­tic con­sump­tion.

Muhammad Ramzan Ansar, an agron­o­mist at the Barani Agriculture Research Institute (BARI), told Olive Oil Times that the insti­tute has helped farm­ers plant 1.3 mil­lion trees from 2016 to 2021.

He said the first olive research and train­ing cen­ter is being estab­lished at BARI Chakwal to advise olive grow­ers and oil pro­duc­ers.

Ramzan added that the qual­ity of olive oil pro­duced in the region is improv­ing and attract­ing cus­tomers.

However, Hashmi warned that car­ing for the trees for the ini­tial two years, before they enter pro­duc­tiv­ity, is very costly for farm­ers and, there­fore, dif­fi­cult to sus­tain.

Though the gov­ern­ment encour­ages olive farm­ing in the coun­try, many still need more sup­port to install drip irri­ga­tion sys­tems and other infra­struc­ture to grow olives prof­itably.

Once Hashmi har­vests his olives, he takes them to a gov­ern­ment-run mill at BARI. He said most farm­ers are depen­dent on the government’s mills to pro­duce their olive oil.

Few farm­ers have the cap­i­tal or the knowl­edge to build their own mills, which pro­duc­ers glob­ally have attrib­uted to higher qual­ity pro­duc­tion.

However, Hashmi believes that Pakistan will soon be able to meet its con­sump­tion needs with­out rely­ing on imports if cur­rent poli­cies con­tinue.

Muhammad Tariq, the national project direc­tor at the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, said there are 26 mills in the coun­try. They can pro­duce an aver­age of 600 kilo­grams of olive oil per hour.

He added that the gov­ern­ment is cov­er­ing 67 per­cent of the costs of pur­chas­ing new olive trees and help­ing farm­ers install drip irri­ga­tion sys­tems.

Hopefully, in two to three years, Pakistan will sub­sti­tute its import of olive oil with its local pro­duc­tion with this mas­sive scale cul­ti­va­tion of olives and its oil pro­duc­tion in the coun­try,” he con­cluded.


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