Olive Oil Production Viable in Pakistan:
72,000 ton per year Achievable: IAO project
Geographic Information System (GIS) is a component of the project launched recently named ‘Promotion of production and commercialization of olive oil in Pakistan’ by IAO in collaboration with Pakistan Olive Development Board (PODB) to provide clear indications concerning the selection of suitable areas to grow profitably olives in Pakistan at a reconnaissance level of detail.
The identification of these areas, unprecedented for this crop in Pakistan, is going to be an instrumental tool that can offer an important support to the expansion of the olive cultivation in the Country.
According to the findings of the project, it seems evident that a viable olive oil production could be established in the country over the next few years. The sustainable expansion of the industry would be strictly linked to the selection of suitable areas as well as through appropriate technical support and active involvement of all potential stakeholders. Thus, even if funds and human resources were so far devoted to the establishment of this industry, much more should be done in the future to ensure its sustainable expansion
According to the details of the initial project findings, the better areas for the olive cultivation are mainly situated in NWFP and Balochistan -- areas in which the majority of farmers are striving to get better incomes and where, generally, the population is in need for more job opportunities.
Although the aim of this work did not contemplate, at this stage, the convenience of inserting olives into the local farming systems, as the farming systems are actually mainly decided by the farmers themselves, the matter would be briefly examined and a possible scenario will be envisaged. It is widely known that, especially for flattish irrigated and fertile land, the choice of the farmers in future would probably go or remain to other kind of crops such as vegetables or other species of fruits rather than olives.
Arbitrarily, we may assume that mainly farmers having land with slopes above 10% would be interested in introducing this crop in their farming system. By considering this percentage (about 30% of the entire suitable area) we may reduce the total potential area at around 264,000 hectares.
By assuming that one third of this area would be put under olive cultivation, and by adopting an average plant density of 250 trees per hectare (expecting a production of 4 ton of olives per hectare when fully grown) a production of olive oil in the region of 72,000 ton per year would be achievable (extraction rate at 18%). Pending more accurate cultivar’s specific information, extremely needed from the nursery sector as well as the farming and business communities, around 25 million olive trees (among the better performing for quantity and quality of production) would be necessary over the next 15-20 years for the area indicated. Even if the described scenario is purely a speculation, especially because of the large number of socio-economic variables involved, it appears undisputable that a large number of actors (or parties) should be fully involved to succeed with this industry since its beginning.
An attempt to put together all major stakeholders for the industry is actually made by PODB, which is receiving full support by the IAO project “Promotion of production and commercialization of olive oil in Pakistan”. The aim is to develop a Strategic Development Plan for the entire sector, instrumental tool at this stage, to properly coordinate the efforts of all parties involved, such as farmers, growers associations, research institutions and private sector.
For what concerns land evaluation for olive growing, a future improvement of the analysis at national level is recommended, following the methodology illustrated with the pilot study for Mardan district. It is important to reiterate that the software platform and most of the data used to perform this GIS assessment are free and therefore this analysis can be easily replicated in the future.
Ultimately, a variety of systems of cultivation would coexist in the future. Higher density orchards, with a certain degree of mechanization, would be typical of more favorable growing conditions alongside with low-density orchards, typical of areas characterized by small properties, especially if situated in difficult terrains. In this environment, olive cultivation would encompass the conversion of wild olives as well as the introduction of orchards with a wider layout to allow intercropping.