PESHAWAR - Blessed with diverse ecological zones, fertile soil and suitable climate conditions, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is going to emerge as a home of olive trees where over 70 million wild olive plants have been discovered out of which 40 million would be planted jointly by the Agriculture and Forest departments in next five years.

From Chital to D I Khan and Suleiman Mountains near Waziristan to West Bank of the River Indus, KP is declared the most suitable landscape for olive cultivation where about 700,000 hectares land was fit for whopping olive cultivation on commercial scale. In order to bring this vast land under olive cover,  the Forest and Agriculture  departments have joined hands to plant 40 million olives mostly of Italian and Spanish varieties under 10 Billion Trees Afforestration Project (10BTAP) by 2026.

Talking to APP, Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, Project Director, 10 BTAP said olive, bees-flora and fruits plants were included for the first time in the mega project in KP where 40 million olive trees would be planted and grafting in another 40 million wild olives would be achieved having preference to Spanish and Italian varieties due to its high production and climate resistance. He said that 362 million plants including 180 million through forests enclosures including olive trees were planted by March 15 last in the province and efforts is on to achieve half of the target of 500 million saplings by June this year.

Dr Muhammad Naeem, Assistant Professor Economics, University of Swabi said that olive cultivation was a profitable business in world and about $3.6 billion, which normally Pakistan spends on import of olive oil every year, could be saved by promoting olive farming. Following petroleum products, he said Pakistan spends about Rs 225.69 billion every year on import of edible oil including soybean, palm oil and others.

Ahmad Syed, Project Director, KP Olive Trees Cultivation said that Spain was producing about 45 per cent of the total world’s edible oil from olive cultivation on 2.6 million hectares while Pakistan despite having a vast suitable area of 4.4 million hectares for olive farming as compared to Spain is importing around 75 per cent edible oil for its domestic consumption. In order to promote olive farming in Pakistan on scientific basis, he said first olive promotional project funded by the Italian Government was launched on June 1, 2012 in Pakistan under which olive cultivation on 1,500 hectares was successfully achieved.

The Project Director said the project worth Rs 3.82billion was later handed over to Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Islamabad after devolution of Pakistan Oil Development Board (PODB) on February 12, 2012 and was completed on June 30, 2015. To capitalize on the good work of the project, Federal Government had launched “Promotion of Olive Trees Cultivation on Commercial Scale (POTCCS)” Project worth Rs2.3 billion in 2015 to increase production of edible oil. He said the project was currently underway in Punjab, KP, erstwhile Fata and Balochistan.

Ahmad Syed said about 10.41 million olives would be planted in Pakistan including KP under Federal Govt’s Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) during 2021-26. New olive orchards on 75,000 acres lands would be raised including on 30,000 acres in KP and grafting in 10 million wild olives in Pakistan including 40 million in KP would be achieved by 2026. He said that new orchards on about 13,264 acres were raised and wild olive grafting in over 470,000 plants achieved besides grafting in about 500,000 wild olive and raising of orchards on 12,000 acres. Eight certification laboratories would be established while a Pak Olive Company to be raised to ensure stability in its business, he added.