Olive cultivation potential in Pakistan

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There is a lot of potential for olive cultivation in Pakistan. The estimates have revealed that if eight million wild olive trees present in different provinces are grafted and converted into the productive olive then there is a potential of earning a maximum of one billion dollars annually. Similarly, we may earn a maximum of 9 billion dollars annually if olive cultivation is made on cultivable potential waste lands. The olive appears to have been native to Asia, being one of the earliest trees cultivated by man. The trees belong to oleaceae family and comprise 30 genera with 600 species. The plant is xerophitic upon species of tree the olea-europea or Europium olive. Olive is an integral part of the diet of the people of the Mediterranean lands and is a source of fat in diet of these people. Olive oil is widely used in countries where fats are scarce. In Indo-Pak sub-continent a wild olive, olea cuspida is found within the northwest Himalayas and other adjoining hills but cultivated olive olea Europea is not grown anywhere on commercial scale. This plant is locally known as Zytoon in Urdu, Showan in Pushtu, Khat in Brahavi and kow in Punjabi, Sindhi and Saraiki. The importance of olive oil has also been narrated several times in the Holy Quran. During the mid of last century;( around 1950s), a number of grafted olive plants of several varieties were imported and planted in Kashmir, Simla and Kangra hills at Harnai, Fort Sandeman (Zhob) in Balochistan, Peshawar, Swat (NWFP), Rawalpindi, Sargodha, and Jhelum (Punjab) districts.

The secret of the olive tree is in two things: its fruit, the olive itself, and its massive underground root system that can extend over twenty feet. The roots are so extensive and strong that in times of drought, when other trees die, the zaytuna tree is still standing because it draws from deep within the earth when the heavens withhold their life-giving water. Another aspect of these roots is that they enable the tree to produce olives for hundreds of years: even after the tree looks as if there is no life left in it, it continues to produce olives.

Olive products have great nutritional value. The Vitamin E contained in Olives is the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Anti-oxidants help to strengthen the body’s immune system; reducing the severity of asthma, cancer, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, premature ageing, as well as delaying the effects of ageing.Olives contain compounds called polyphenols that appear to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. Imam as-Suyuti comments that in using olive oil as a balm, you fortify your limbs and as a result reduce inflammation.The juice of the olive, otherwise known as olive oil (Zayt), is a delicious source of antioxidants. This oil is monounsaturated, and it has a positive effect on the cholesterol level in our blood streams, by helping to reduce it. Monounsaturated fats are an important part of our diets. These oils act to keep cholesterol from sticking to our artery walls, and thus combating against diseases such as heart disease and strokes. Not only that, but they help to control blood sugar, a big plus in offering protection against Diabetes.

The total domestic consumption of edible oil is around 1.9 million tonnes, out of which 1.3 million tonnes is being imported from abroad. As many as Rs 28 billion are being spent on the import of edible oil every year.The total production of banola oil is around 450,000 tonnes, sunflower 77,000 tonnes, canola 32,000 tonnes and other seeds is 700 tonnes per year in the country. Hence, 70% oil is being imported against local production of 30%.In this respect, the government is paying special attention to enhance the cultivation of canola, olive and palm oil in the country to save precious foreign exchange.

Olive was introduced first time in Pakistan by PARC during 1986 under an Italian Project titled “Fruit, Vegetable and olive Project” funded by Government of Italy. After this project a general survey was conducted to estimate the number of naturally occurred wild olive specie “Olea Cuspidata” and found more than 80 Million wild Olive plants in different district of Pakistan

The project “Promotion of Olive Cultivation for Economic Development and Poverty Alleviation” was awarded to government of Pakistan by the Italian government under the Debt Swap Agreement. The project is in operation through PARC, s strong coordination system in KPK, Baluchistan, FATA and Punjab provinces. The aim of the project is to increase the local production of edible oils by cultivating olive specially to utilize culture-able waste lands in Punjab, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and FATA.

Main objectives of the olive promotional project are to expand the cultivation of olives in selected areas through new plantation in Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Potohar to promote oil cultivation and use of olive oil.

 

Author is an Executive Editor of Mélange int’l Magazine and Secretary Information Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR)

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