LAHORE - Efforts are afoot to transform Punjab’s Potohar region into an ‘Olive Valley’ in collaboration with the USAID under Punjab Enabling Environment Project.

The Potohar region possesses ideal climatic conditions and land for the commercial cultivation of olive orchards. In light of the growth opportunities emerging from this region, the provincial government has allocated funds for the implementation of the Olive Sector Development Project in Punjab, which was developed through technical assistance provided by USAID-supported Policy and Strategy Unit at the Department of Agriculture.

In this connection, representatives from the public and private sectors, research institutions as well as farmers and potential investors from the Punjab attended a seminar on Wednesday to discuss opportunities and challenges in the development of an Olive Valley in the Potohar region of Punjab.

The Department of Agriculture, Government of Punjab, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) jointly hosted the event.

“The transformation of Punjab’s Potohar region into an ‘Olive Valley’ will encourage investment in the olive sector and increase the country’s exports of olive products. Today’s seminar provides a constructive forum to understand the complexities involved in taking the olive sector development initiative to the next stage,” said USAID Director for Punjab Miles Toder addressing the seminar participants.

“Government of Punjab has planned to develop the Potohar tract as olive valley for which a project with cost of PKR 2782 million is being implemented. Under this project 15100 acres will be brought under olive cultivation by providing 2.0385 million plants free of cost in five years,” stated Secretary Department of Agriculture, Government of Punjab Sheheryar Sultan. “Efforts are under way to ensure involvement of all stakeholders to foster conducive business environment under this initiative,” he added.

The olive sector development project aims to utilize marginal lands and sub-mountainous areas in Potohar and adjoining areas including Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum and Rawalpindi to increase the local production of edible olive oil and enhance its export.

The seminar provided participants a forum to develop linkages between business entities, potential investors, olive cultivators and growers, horticulture experts, public and private sector representatives to support the government of Punjab in successfully implementing the olive sector development plan.

The seminar also focused on the different phases of olive production, propagation, post-harvest handling, processing, and storage, and developing olive products.

Speakers at the seminar included President of the Olive Growers Association Azam Nazir Sheikh, Director General Ayub Agriculture Research Institute Dr. Abid Mehmood, Director Izhar Group Yaqoob Tahir Izhar, Agriculture Specialist USAID Punjab Asad Khan, Chief of Party USAID PEEP Muhammad Junaid, and Business Enabling Environment Specialist USAID PEEP Asad Zahoor.

USAID’s Punjab Enabling Environment Project is a five-year, $14.98 million project, which is strengthening the livestock, dairy and horticulture sectors of Punjab by supporting policy and regulatory reforms through private sector-led advocacy. These reforms are expected to spur investment and create jobs.