Khar (bajaur) - Olive plants have become a source of livelihood for many farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where land is said to be fertile and suitable for this fruit. Sajid Khan, a quadragenarian, is one of those farmers often seen tending to olive plants in his native Bajaur tribal district.
The plants in Sajid’s field have slips from olive plants of Spanish, Italy, Turkey and Middle East as well. According to agriculture experts, climate of Pakistan is favourable to olive farming.
“One plant produces around 150kg olives and 50kg olives produce almost 6 litres oil, while one litre oil is priced more than Rs2000 in the market,” Sajid said.
He added that many people liked consuming olive oil in meals while some make pickles out of it.
Spain is the world’s top olive grower, producing 5,965,080 tonnes per year. Italy ranks second with an annual output of 2,194,110 tonnes. Spain is said to be the most olive producing country in the world and according to reports, Spain has 2.6 million hectares land is used for olive farming. According to agriculturists, Pakistan has around 4.4 million hectares land that is suitable for olives production.
Olives can produce maximum oil when it is crushed by machines within 24 hours after they are harvested from plants.
An employee of the agriculture department in Bajaur said that the crushing plant they had installed crushed 50kg olives in only one hour. “In the beginning, there was little awareness among locals about olives. But later when they started consuming it, its demand increased.
Pakistan contains over 80 million olive trees, out of which around 10 million trees exist in Bajaur tribal district and adjacent areas.
Speaking to The Nation, Dr Sartaj Alam said that realising the fact that olive can be grown in many areas of Pakistan, the government had now started focusing on it. “It has been mostly grown in Middle East, Spain, Italy, etc. But now Pakistan has also started its plantation since it can be grown in many areas of the country, while Peshawar division and Hazara division are the most suitable for its farming,” he added.
According to reports, Pakistan annually imports cooking oil worth 2 billion dollars. Proper attention on the olive growing and facilitating the farmers for the purpose can not only earn the country revenue but it can also improve the living standards of various parts of the country.