He elaborated that the olive culture meant the supply value chain and processing, without which development in the sector would not be easy. Replying to a question, the envoy revealed that the “olive culture” project worth €1.5 million would be executed over a period of 26 months in suitable areas by Ciheam Bari International in cooperation with the Ministry of National Food Security and Research through the Pakistan Oilseed Department.
“It represents the continuation of all work done by Italy in the past, with a holistic approach encompassing all stages and stakeholders,” he said.
The ambassador was of the view that Pakistan had a lot of potential for olive production and it could earn foreign exchange by increasing the olive output and using it for commercial purposes.
Calling the quality of Italian olive the best in the world, he suggested that Pakistan could import olive from Italy. Olives are an integral part of the entire Mediterranean civilisation without which life and culture will be incomplete.
The envoy stressed that Italy had always supported Pakistan’s journey in the field and “we are happy to continue with the aim of developing a sustainable, modern and rich olive culture.”
He said it would not only provide quality edible oil for the people in Pakistan but would also help reduce the import bill. Rather, “we look forward to the times when Pakistan would be among the leading olive producing and exporting countries in the world”.
Talking to APP, Ciheam Bari International Olive Culture Project Coordinator Marco Marchetti said that there was a need to work more on the olive supply chain in Pakistan, as the lack of which could not reap the benefits.
He pointed out that the consumption of edible oil in Pakistan was 4.5 million tons, for which the market needed to introduce the best olive oil for human health.
Marchetti underscored the need for introducing technology, including creating awareness among farmers, for the promotion of olive oil culture. “There is a need to reduce the cost of production in the olive supply value chain with the acquisition of technology and to give opportunities to the local farmers to sell olive in the market at a good price,” he said.
“Olive culture has been around for thousands of years in Italy, where we have been associated with the Mediterranean civilisation and where olives have been cultivated for thousands of years.” Marchetti called on the organisations and institutions related to the local agriculture to pay special attention to the promotion of olives.
Qualified human resources, technical assistance, quality and safety standards, reference laboratories for oil certification and phytosanitary labs are very much needed in Pakistan to establish a full value chain of safe and highly nutritious tasty food that improves health dramatically. He emphasised that olive contributed to mitigating the impact of climate change as a smart tree against soil erosion and water consumption, inducing a low carbon footprint.
“These are added value benefits in Pakistan, which has the potential to be a world leader in olive production,” he said. The Italian technical assistance for Pakistan started 40 years ago with the adaptive research schemes to assess the viability of modernised cultivation of the crop (in the 1980s and 1990s).
It was followed by the launch of first significant olive crop investment (2012-15) through the Pakistan Italian Debt Swap Agreement, resulting in 2,000 hectares of plantation in the marginal and wastelands. In 2016, the olive cultivation was introduced in the Programme for Poverty Reduction, sponsored by the Italian government and executed by the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), through which three oil extraction units were being established on a public-private partnership basis with the farming communities.
Recently, in March 2022, a key project called “Olive Culture Holistic and Multi-Professional Mechanism for Pakistani Olive Oil Value Chain” has been launched.