ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is passing through a silent revolution regarding olive oil production.
The government’s enhanced focus on olive plantation was taking the country gradually towards self reliance which will greatly help it save foreign exchange of US $ 3 to 4 billion which were currently being spent on the imports of edible oil.
In a major development, the officials told this correspondent that more than nine advanced oil extraction plants have been installed in the country to harness the increasing olive oil production on a commercial scale for farmers. The oil extraction units have been installed under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) to promote olive cultivation to cater to domestic requirements.
The officials said that three out of nine plants have a capacity of extracting 600 kg oil per hour while six have a capacity of extracting 100 kg per hour.
Olive trees have successfully been cultivated over 27, 000 hectares of land across the country. The plantation extends through Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Islamabad and Azad Kashmir.
The officials said that Olive orchards in Punjab have reached the fruition stage especially in the Potohar region has great prospects of becoming the highest olive seed producer. They said the olive saplings are provided free of cost to the farmers of the region including Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Jhelum, Attock and Khushab districts in order to encourage them cultivate more olive trees.
The officials further said that cultivation is to be expanded over 70, 000 hectares to turn marginal lands into productive ones. This will not only enhance the income of small scale growers but also give impetus to the economy. They said that massive plantation is in the pipeline.
The officials said the government also plans to issue certifications for the marketing and branding of olive oil for the private sector.
In addition, the officials said the present government is now giving special emphasis to the development of road infrastructure in order to facilitate the growers/farmers to take their produce direct to the market and get reasonable price for their crops. They said the Punjab government has recently started work on the 41 kilometer Gujranwala-Sheikhupura road to connect two major industrial cities of the province. The project will be completed under the public private partnership at a cost of Rs 5.7 billion rupees by mid of next year. They said that work on ten more such projects was also underway.