By Imran Nazir

ISLAMABAD (APP) – Pakistan is all set to harvest 40,000 tons of olive during current season to produce about 3,500 tons of extra-virgin olive oil.

The domestic production of olive oil will also help in fetching the handsome amount of foreign exchange through exports, besides saving precious money spent on import of the commodity.

While exploiting the abundant opportunities existing for the cultivation of olive across the country, olive has 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.

Over one million olive plants were planted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 500,000 in Balochistan province under olive cultivation on commercial scales project, he added.

Dr Tariq said over four million hectares of marginal land had been identified for olive cultivation across the country, adding that Pakistan had the potential to cross Spain, the 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 can earn 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.

He said 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 export of domestic olive oil, the government would provide branding, labeling, packaging and marketing facilities to private sector.

Dr Tariq further said 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 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.