ISLAMABAD    -  The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is making concerted efforts to benefit from the unique soil condition of north western Punjab including the Potohar region by promoting Olive cultivation and oil seeds as part of efforts to substitute country’s hefty edible oil bill.

According to the agriculture experts, the focused efforts being made by the incumbent government to encourage olive plantation would bring about a significant change in the region over next few years.   

Since district Chakwal is a model region for arid farming of the Punjab province, the provincial government has launched a major campaign in this regard. To give further impetus to the provincial government to encourage farmers, a two-day National Olive Festival was arranged at Barani Agricultural Research Institute Chakwal which concluded on Sunday. 

According to the officials, the objective of the festival was to promote cultivation of olive and its by-products. 

Speaking on occasion, Commissioner Rawalpindi Division Capt. (Retd) Muhammad Mehmood, said that present government was focusing on promotion of oil seed crops. Pakistan spends about Rs350 billion on import of edible oil every year. 

He said promotion of olive cultivation would significantly decrease import bill of edible oil, adding that Barani Agricultural Research Institute Chakwal had played key role in promoting olive cultivation. 

He said the barren land of the Potohar was being utilised for olive cultivation and the olive cultivation would generate employment opportunity in this region. He said that cultivation would also put positive impact on climate changes. 

Director Barani Agricultural Research Institute Chakwal Muhammad Rafiq Dogar said that Barani Agricultural Research Institute Chakwal had developed about 800 olive farms in this region. 

For successful cultivation of olive the drip irrigation system was provided on 70% subsidy, he said adding that two cultivars BARI Zaitoon 1 and BARI Zaitoon 2 were also developed by this institute for cultivation in Potohar. 

He said that olive was being cultivated on barren lands of Potohar and it was not replacing any crop like wheat etc. 

He said the first Centre of Excellence for Olive Research & Training had been established which was playing important role in the research as well as training of farmers. 

He said that trials were also being conducted in Southern Punjab for olive cultivation. 

Among others who participated in the festival were Chief Executive Punjab Agriculture Research Board Dr. Abid Mehmood, Director Barani Agricultural Research Institute Chakwal Muhammad Rafiq Dogar, Director National Olive Project Dr. Muhammad Tariq, Roberto Neccia, head of Mission, Italian Embassy Mrs. Sepideh Vahdad, Dr. Emanuela Benini Director AICS Italian Embassy, Andrew E. Baker Chief of Party USAID.