Production

Olive Farming Blooms in India’s Desert State

May. 4, 2011
By Vikas Vij

Recent News

The olive cul­ti­va­tion project launched three years ago in India’s desert state of Rajasthan has now reached a flow­er­ing stage. The $3 mil­lion pilot project began with the plant­ing of about 112,000 saplings from Israel across an area of 182 hectares in north­ern Rajasthan. Project head Surinder Singh Shekhawat informs that four farms in the desert areas have shown pos­i­tive signs of flow­er­ing and olives will follow shortly.

The project under Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Ltd. was inspired from the suc­cess­ful cul­ti­va­tion of olives in the desert regions of Israel with the help of tech­nol­ogy. Rajasthan expe­ri­ences a cli­mate sim­i­lar to Israel, with cold spells and a cer­tain chill­ing tem­per­a­ture that is essen­tial to the cul­ti­va­tion of olives. Olives can grow in water-scarce desert regions because of their low water require­ment.


The Indo-Israel joint ven­ture project is pro­ceed­ing well on track, and the first semi-com­mer­cial yield is expected this year. The project has received advanced sensor and drip irri­ga­tion tech­nol­ogy from Israel as a part of the joint ven­ture. This tech­nol­ogy helps to gauge pre­cisely how much water, nutri­ents and fer­tilis­ers the plants require for a healthy yield, while con­serv­ing water and other resources.

Gideon Peleg is the Israeli expert who works as the tech­ni­cal direc­tor. Peleg has also been con­sult­ing an olive farmer and olive oil pro­ducer in Nepal intro­duc­ing ten­siome­ter-con­trolled indi­vid­ual drip irri­ga­tion to enable prof­itable olive oil pro­duc­tion for the first time in the high Himalayan plains.

The Indian gov­ern­ment is closely mon­i­tor­ing the Rajasthan project and, once the pilot is a suc­cess, there are plans to repli­cate it. The tech­nol­ogy will be pro­vided to the local farm­ers at sub­sidised rates and they will be trained to use it effec­tively. Other states in north India are also watch­ing the pilot’s progress with inter­est. Some experts in India are of the opin­ion that the coun­try could turn into a promi­nent olive oil pro­duc­tion center in the future and com­pete with the Mediterranean region by pro­duc­ing olives and olive oil at a com­pet­i­tive cost.

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India’s low cost of farm­ing labour may prove to be its com­pet­i­tive advan­tage, con­sid­er­ing the fact that olive pick­ing and prun­ing is a labour-inten­sive exer­cise. Furthermore, India has sub­stan­tial cul­tivable parcels of land that are cur­rently under-uti­lized, unlike the European nations. This could help to pro­duce olive oil at an export-com­pet­i­tive cost and also expand the domes­tic market with afford­able prices.

The pilot project in Rajasthan has two more years to go, and there­after the real chal­lenge will be to over­come all hur­dles and achieve suc­cess­ful mass pro­duc­tion of olives and olive oil in India. If all goes accord­ing to plan, India may turn out to be a new olive oil sup­plier to the world.

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