The country will harvest about 40,000 tons of olive (fruit) during current season to produce about 3,500 tons of extra-virgin olive oil that would help in tackling with the domestic edible oil requirements.
The domestic production of olive oil would also help in fetching the handsome amount of foreign exchange by exporting it, besides saving the precious foreign exchange reserves being spent on the import of the commodity.
While exploiting the abundant opportunities existing for the cultivation of olive across the country, olive had been cultivated over a vast areas of Pothohar region of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, Project Director of Olive Cultivation of Commercial Scale in Pakistan Dr Muhammd Tariq said.
Talking to APP here on Wednesday, he said that under the project about 1.2 million olive plants were planted in Pothohar region of Punjab that had immense potential of olive cultivation.
Besides, he said that over one million olive plants were planted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 500,000 in Balochistan Province under olive cultivation on commercial scales project.
Dr Tariq said that over 4 million hectares of marginal land had been identified for olive cultivation across the country, adding that by utilizing that areas Pakistan could cross Spain a leading world olive producer and could earn billions of dollars annually.
He said the country was spending an average of $4 billion per-annum on the import of edible oil including soya bean and palm to meet with the domestic consumptions.
By cultivating the olive on commercial scales, Pakistan would not only able to save its precious forex reserves, but it could fetch billions of dollars by exporting olive oil, its by-products including olive pickles, soap, tea and other cosmetics, he remarked.
The project director informed that government had allocated an amount of Rs 2.3 billion in its Public Sector Development Program for the year 2019-20 on promotion and development of olive on commercial scale, adding that several other steps were being taken to encourage the small land holders to cultivate olive to alleviate poverty from the rural areas of the country.
He said that in order to promote the exports of the domestic olive oil, the government would provide branding, labeling, packaging and marketing facilities to private sector.
Dr Tariq further informed that in order to promote the exports as well as producing the extra virgin oil, the government was enforcing the standards of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Olive Council.
He said that the locally produced olive oil was competing with the international standards as it was certified by Italy, adding that Italy was also providing financial and technical assistance to government for olive promotion.