Pakistan's Ten Billion Tree Tsunami project launched in 2014 by the PTI government has sparked a silent olive revolution in the country. Pakistan, now the 19th member of the International Olive Council, is producing about 1,500 tons of olive oil per year and 830 tons of table olives, according to Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants. It is also helping tackle some of the effects of climate change such as soil erosion and desertification and bringing new opportunities to farmers. Olive cultivation was started as a pilot project in Potohar region by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's government in 2014. The PTI government promoted it nationwide as a part of Prime Minister Imran Khan's Ten Billion Tree Tsunami initiative to bring about the olive revolution in the country.
|Olive Valley, Pakistan|
Pakistan is the world's third largest importer of cooking oil. In 2020, Pakistan imported $2.1 billion worth of palm oil, behind only India's $5.1 billion and China's $4.1 billion in palm oil imports. Increasing olive oil production will help the country reduce its dependence on palm oil imports. Substituting imported palm oil with domestic olive oil may also help improve the heath of Pakistani consumers.
The International Olive Council (IOC) has 18 members, mostly European and Middle Eastern nations located in the Mediterranean region. Pakistan has joined as its 19th member. The IOC members account for more than 98% of global olive production. The IOC has been headquartered in the Spanish capital Madrid since it was founded in 1959. The organization specifies acceptable quality control testing methods and assures consumer transparency information, for example: hygiene standards along the supply chain, suitable packing materials and filling tolerances product labelling standards, identification of any food additives or allowable contaminants, recommendations for environmental protection in the use and disposal of olive products.
|Olive Plantation in Peshawar, Pakistan. Source: Olive Oil Times|
Welcoming Pakistan into the organization, Mr. Abdellatif Ghedira, the IOC’s executive director, told Olive Oil Times: “In Pakistan, olive oil culture is making inroads, and so are the opportunities related to that .....The council is a decisive player in contributing to the sustainable and responsible development of olive growing, and it serves as a world forum for discussing policymaking issues and tackling present and future challenges".
Olive trees thrive in dry arid regions with rocky soils that are more challenging for traditional crops. Pakistan government officials believe that olive farming is an efficient answer both to reforestation needs and economic development. “A special focus in this phase will be given to underprivileged areas of the country, such as Southern Balochistan, Southern Punjab, the tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and some parts of Sindh province,” Muhammad Tariq, national project director at the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, told Olive Oil Times.
It is expected that traditional farming and modern techniques would make large tracts of barren land productive, creating new jobs and growing the economy. Drip irrigation systems are being deployed over 16,000 hectares and 3.6 million olive trees. The Pakistani public and private sectors currently maintain 26 olive oil extraction plants of different capacities, from 80 kilograms per hour to 600, according to Olive Times.
Pakistan has the potential to be a world leader in olive production. In the last decade, PTI's Ten Billion Tree Tsunami initiative has spurred rapid olive cultivation in Pakistan with the import of 100,000 olive seedlings from top olive producing countries like Spain, Italy and Turkey. Pakistan’s climate is conducive for olive production, as the olive trees grow fast in regions with moderate winters following long hot summers.
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