While Pakistan is not a major producer of olive oil globally, concerted efforts in specific regions, like Hazara, have resulted in significant progress in the past 20 years in the cultivation of olive oil, especially in the Hazara Division which includes areas like Punjab, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and KPK.
More than 1000 hectares of olive trees have been planted in the Hazara Division, which runs from Haripur to Battagram. The region has been especially successful in its olive cultivation because of people like Sabir Sultan, an Abbottabad-based expert farmer and cultivator of olives.
Sultan’s journey in transforming the agricultural landscape of the Hazara Division began 13 years ago. His expertise in olive grafting, influenced by his extensive travels to approximately 25 countries, has played a pivotal role in the flourishing of olive trees and a subsequent increase in edible oil production. Collaborative efforts have resulted in 52,000 successful olive grafts on local-breed Kaho trees, with an additional 50,000 individual grafts.
The economic viability of olive cultivation is underscored by Sultan, who revealed that 200 kilograms of olives yield an impressive 15 kilograms of high-quality edible oil. Support from countries like Turkey has been crucial, with the installation of cutting-edge olive oil extraction machines in KPK, including one in the Hazara Division.
The integration of modern technology, exemplified by machines from Turkey and Italy, has streamlined the olive oil extraction process. The success story of Hazara Division goes beyond just oil production; it has become an avenue for additional income through tea and pickles, contributing to the region’s economic prosperity.
Sabir Sultan’s transformative efforts extend to community outreach, where he conducts workshops on olive cultivation and grafting in Hazara Division and Punjab. The goal is to promote and expand olive cultivation, aiming for self-sufficiency in edible oil production and contributing significantly to foreign exchange savings.
Despite challenges such as limited resources and technical support, the Hazara division has seen a remarkable increase in olive oil production. According to Agriculture Department statistics, production escalated from 90 KG in 2019 to over 2 metric tons in 2023, providing substantial financial benefits to farmers. This success has attracted more farmers to engage in olive cultivation.
Key players in the development of olive farming in the region include the Agriculture Department and the National Tea and High-Value Crops Research Institute (NTHVCRI), Shinkiari. The olive cultivation and development program for 2024, offering subsidized rates for high-quality olive saplings, further reflects the commitment to fostering olive farming.
Scientific Officer Saeed uz Zaman from NTHVCRI highlighted the institute’s role in guiding farmers, offering subsidized olive saplings, and actively contributing to the growth of olive cultivation in the Hazara Division. The continuous efforts in this region serve as an inspiration, showcasing the potential of sustainable agriculture and the positive impact it can have on local economies.