Plan to incentivise farmers for olive cultivation
Islamabad : Dr. Muhammad Tariq, Project Director, Olive Promotion Cultivation on Commercial Scale in Pakistan, Ministry of Food Security and Research. has said that Pakistan spends $4 b per annum on the import of edible oil and oilseeds every year which can be reduced by cultivating olive on 4 million hectares of uncultivated land in the country that is suitable for olive production and where water can be explored.
In an interview with this correspondent, Dr. Tariq said that pruning in December and using fungicides and insecticide sprays in February are very crucial to getting better yield from olive plants. Drip irrigation helps in getting optimum production from the cultivated land. It would reduce 25 % of our olive oil imports, rather we may be able to export our olive products to the world.
The scope of olive plants can be increased as its leaves will be used in producing organic dyes for colouring food as well as leather industry thereby checking the pollution generated by tanneries. The residue obtained after extracting oil from olive fruits is rich biomass for agriculture or can serve as feeds for poultry and livestock. Oil cultivation will also stop soil erosion.
Dr. Tariq enumerated other offshoots including jobs for the people, especially in tribal areas. We can have factories producing olive pickle, olive tea, and other nutraceutical products used in cosmetics, he continued.
He revealed that NARC provides olive oil extraction services to clients with a minimum of 20 kg of fruit free of cost. There are 28 oil extraction machines of different capacities in Pakistan in the public sector while 2 units are operating in the private sector in Punjab and Balochistan.
He said in the Phase II programme, training in value-added products will be provided to develop cottage industry in rural areas. Olive has no competition with any crop as we are developing it on uncultivated land. He said the country has millions of wild olive trees we call Kahu and we have planned to graft 5 m Kahu trees this year.
In the next three years, Dr. Tariq, said we intend to plant olive saplings on 75,000 acres. Four to eight most widely adopted registered varieties in the world depending upon availability will be distributed to farmers free of cost. Different varieties should be planted for cross-pollination in every field which is essential for better yield and production, he added.
Pre- and post-harvest kits and fruit processing units will be provided to farmers on a matching grant basis, he said adding that our next target will be establishing reference laboratories to certify olive oil for export or local sale.