ISLAMABAD :   As many as 1,300 acre of land has been brought under olive cultivation in less than one year under Olive Promotion Project launched by Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) with an aim to exploit the potential in this particular sector and make the country self-sufficient in olive production.    The project was launched in mid last year under the debt-swap agreement between PARC and the Italian government for promoting olive farming in Pakistan, Chairman PARC Dr. Iftikhar Ahmed told.

The PARC in coordination with the provincial governments aims to bring 3,500 acres of land under olive cultivation in three years to help country reduce its oil imports and save millions of dollars spent for this purpose, he said.

In addition to these 3500 acres of land, the council has been conducting a thorough survey all across the country to identify further land for olive cultivation, the Chairman remarked.

He was of the view that country was using millions of dollars for importing oil, however if the existing olive cultivation potential is tapped, the country would be in position to export olive.

   He said that Pakistan has vast marginal lands which provide conducive atmosphere and environment for the olive cultivation adding that without utilizing the existing cultivable land the councils has identified barren and marginal lands for the cultivation of olive.

The PARC Chairman said that the council has so far established nine trainings workshops and trained more than three hundred farmers, technicians and NGO people for olive cultivation, orchards management and value addition.

Five nurseries in public sector and 53 in private sector have been established that provide true to type plants for future needs, Iftikhar Ahmed said, adding more than one hundred thousand cuttings have been planted in nurseries.

In addition, previously established orchards in public and private sector are also being maintained by the council to promote olive cultivation.

He said that farmers field days are being arranged for popularization of olive adding the council has also launched media campaign to promote olive cultivation as hundreds of news items and articles have been published in national dailies and interview conducted through electronic media to promote this particular sector.

Meanwhile while talking to the news agency, Project Director Olive Production National, Dr Mohammad Munir Goraya said the council had identified olive cultivation areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA, Potohar Region (Punjab) and Balochistan; and has been working on the project since March 2012.

The land being brought under the cultivation under the project would be in addition to that already utilized for the cultivation of olive, he added.

The official was of the view that olive cultivation needs fewer resources and marginal lands are needed for its cultivation so it is a lucrative engagement for farmers who can take full advantage of this.

Once established, the olive gardens would start bearing fruit after three years (in 2015), so the council would set up four olive oil extraction machinery (plants) to facilitate farmers, he said and elaborated that one each big plant would be established in Balochistan and Potohar regions while two units would be installed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA regions.

Dr Goraya said that Pakistan has been involved with the Italian government since 1984 for the promotion of olive as three projects were initiated by Pakistan Oilseed Development Board (PODB) in this regard earlier.

However, he added, the current project was the forth project in this line, which the Italian government gave to the PARC for execution under debt-swap agreement.