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Govt to train 2800 farmers and workers through 47 different programmes

Rice farming in Pakistan. Faseeh Shams / IWMI

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for early completion over 1.2 million olive sapling plantation across the country

The federal government has launched a plan to train 2800 farmers and workers through 47 different programmes for early completion over 1.2 million olive sapling plantation across the country.

The initiative has been taken in a bid to strengthen efforts to enhance production of domestic edible oil and reducing reliance on the imported commodity, sources in the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MFSR) told APP on Saturday.

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Olive plantation is being carried out over 8,900 acres across the country, besides conducting a campaign on wild olive grafting across four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to attain oil for local consumption, added the sources.

Dr. Hassan Tariq, National Project Director Olive Cultivation Programme, told APP that the government was striving to bring specific regions in the country under olive cultivation and earlier, over 5 million sapling have been planted across the country.

“We have a large area of land suitable for growing olive trees, and Pakistan has been producing olive oil since 2010 with the help of countries such as Spain and Italy. Currently, we are producing around 1,500 tons of olive oil and 830 tons of table olives per year, all of which are consumed domestically,” he added.

Olive Project Manager Khaity Technologies Pakistan Azeem Tariq told APP that with the cooperation of all stakeholders, the government had launched a massive drive to complete plantation of over 1.2 million olive saplings, which has been started since last spring tree plantation season, and is continuing across country.

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The drive would help strengthen efforts to produce edible oil to meet needs for domestic consumption, he added while replying to a query.

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Barani Agriculture Research Institute’s Senior Agricultural Scientist and Farm Manager Dr Azhar said that the government had devised a five-year plan to turn the Potohar region into an ‘Olive Valley’. Under the project, the federal government would provide 200,000 free olive plants to selected farmers in Attock, Chakwal, Khushab, Jhelum, and other districts, he added. He said that the project would tap the potential of olive industry in the country, adding the continued growth of olive industry would help contribute significantly to the national economy and promote socioeconomic development, reduce poverty and create employment opportunities in the country.

He appreciated the Punjab government for encouraging oil-producing components. The government is providing a heavy subsidy and farmers are being directed towards cultivation of oil-producing components, he said.

The government has shown a clear trajectory of progress in olive cultivation in the country. He stressed the need for disseminating information about new varieties and production technology among farmers to ensure that the country would become self-sufficient in edible oil production.

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It may be recalled here that domestic olive oil production during the last season was estimated at 70 million tons as compared to the output of over 100 tons of the corresponding period of last year, whereas the availability of olive fruit for value-added products was recorded at over 100 tons.

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During the period under review, the local output of olive oil reduced by 30 per cent as it was badly influenced due to climate change, rising temperatures during the flowering stage, and torrential rains, the local output remained less than last year’s production. However, the government, in collaboration with the Italian government, embarked upon a programme to train olive farmers in the country to revive and develop local production of oil and reduce the reliance on the costly imported commodity.

The government was also working on promotion of olive farming and prepared a programme to convert wild olives into productive olive plants to increase the farm income of farmers in marginalized areas of the country. It may be mentioned here that the third meeting of the steering committee on ‘Olive Culture’ was chaired by Italian Ambassador in Pakistan Andreas Ferrarese and the Secretary, MFSR. A large number of stakeholders, representatives from several ministries, provinces and the Italian cooperation attended the meeting.

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The committee reviewed a strategic proposal plan and policy’s recommendations for a holistic development of the Pakistani olive value chain. The committee also appraised the ‘Olive Cultures’ outstanding achievements, work plan and budget for remaining period from June 2023 to March 2024. The project “Olive Culture-Holistic and Multi-professional Mechanism for a Pakistani Olive Value Chain”, is funded by the Italian government and implemented by CIHEAM Bari with MFSR.

The work plan of the project would pursue training for technicians and farmers in all the good agricultural practices (GAP), in managing and operating the olive processing plants. The project would help generate carbon sinking avenues for olive growers, creating participatory tourism olive plans with the communities’ implementing women and youth generating income activities on value addition from olive table. The plan will provide standardization, branding and continuation of promotion of quality olive oil production and commercialization.

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