ISLAMABAD:As the price of olive oil in Europe has doubled, the oil produced in Pakistan had become a promising market in Italy, Director Italian Trade Agency (ITA) Salvatore Parano said on Saturday.
He was speaking at the ‘Pak Olive National Gala’ in Islamabad.
Mr Parano said increased price of olive oil had opened a window of opportunity for newcomers to play an important role.
“If producers in Pakistan increase production of olive oil and pay attention to the quality of oil they produce, they will find Italy an interesting market for olive oil from Pakistan,” he said.
The official said Italy had been an export success story for Pakistan, adding that last year, Pakistan’s exports to Italy were to the tune of $1.2 billion.
He said a deficit still existed, which could be met through the export of olive oil from Pakistan.
Mr Parano said olive cultivation and oil production in Pakistan had been increasing manifold due to the efforts of the governments of Italy and Pakistan. He hoped that Pakistan would soon be exporting olive oil not only to Italy but to the world.
The hallmark of the ‘Olive Gala’ was the branding of ‘PakOlive’ that will help consumers of olive oil (also known as ‘liquid gold’) purchase certified quality olive oil produced in Pakistan.
Caretaker Minister of National Food Security and Research Dr Kausar Abdullah Malik, who initiated the national gala, reiterated the commitment of Pakistani communities towards the promotion of olive production.
“This is not only enhancing olive production but also providing income opportunities to communities, especially women and youth,” Mr Malik said.
He further stressed the need for an adequate policy that supports the rural development of the olive sector.
National Project Director for the Promotion of Olive Cultivation on a Commercial Scale in Pakistan Dr Mohammad Tariq said one million olive trees were planted in Pakistan every year, of which 42pc were planted in 20 districts of Balochistan, which was the most suitable place for growing olives. In contrast, 10 olive trees are planted per second in the world. Olive oil is produced in 66 countries, whereas it is consumed in 198 countries, Dr Tariq said.
He also disclosed that Pakistan is no longer importing olive tree saplings from Italy, Spain, or elsewhere, but the saplings are now developed under a government-funded project and supplied to growers all over the country, thus saving precious foreign exchange.
Highlighting the current situation of olives in Pakistan and the untapped potential of olive cultivation, Dr Tariq said Pakistan had been identified as a favourable country for olive cultivation and would soon become a member of the ‘International Olive Council’.
Dr Tariq said Pakistan was chronically deficient in edible oil production and was importing 80pc of its domestic requirements. Consequently, a huge amount of foreign exchange is being spent on its import, he said, adding that olive cultivation in Pakistan had the potential to not only stop oil imports but also export premium oil.
The total olive plantation in Pakistan is about 45,000 acres across the country under various programmes. It is estimated that 15pc of the plants are at the fruiting stage as of now. Around 110 tonnes of olive oil and 40 tonnes of fruit were value-added, generating an economic activity of Rs300 million during the fiscal year 2022–23, which has resulted in the creation of jobs in resource-poor rural areas, the development of various start-ups and entrepreneurs exuding health benefits and the mitigation and adaptation of the changing climate.
During the two-day event, an olive oil organoleptic competition will be held, and awards will be given to the top 20 progressive olive farmers and three scientists for best field performance, best packaging and best bottling for quality olive oil.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2023