ISLAMABAD-Pakistan’s water crisis, compounded by climate change, is a major challenge, with adverse effects on agriculture and livestock management, especially in Balochistan province. To address these challenges, cultivating drought-resistant olive trees is a promising solution that not only conserves water resources, but also provides an alternative income source for farmers.

Akbar Khan Khajjak, Research Officer at the Water Management and High-Efficiency Irrigation System, Quetta, said while talking to WealthPK that water crisis is a significant challenge that needs to be addressed urgently. He said the cultivation of drought-resistant olive trees was a ray of hope in such a situation. The researcher said olive trees are deep-rooted that can survive in harsh conditions, making them ideal for regions with water scarcity. He said Balochistan is suffering from water crisis and drought, which has adversely affected the agriculture sector and livestock management. He added that lack of proper management and care has led to declining livestock production, which ultimately decreases income and increases poverty. He said the problem is further compounded by the shortage of feed and water for livestock due to water crisis in the region. The researcher suggested that to address these challenges, the cultivation of olive oil is the best option, and added that Balochistan is ideal for the cultivation of olive trees. He said the cultivation of olives can not only provide an alternate source of income, but also conserve water resources. Akbar also mentioned some challenges to the cultivation of olive trees in Pakistan. He pointed out that the lack of knowledge and expertise in olive cultivation were the major barriers to its widespread adoption. He maintained that the lack of infrastructure, such as irrigation systems and processing facilities, also poses a significant challenge. 

According to Dr Muhammad Tariq, National Project Director at the Pak Olive (a project initiated by the government), there are numerous opportunities for the private sector to invest in the olive industry, such as nursery infrastructure and business, marketing, and farm management. He said the olive value-added industry also has vast scope for private sector entry, and many entrepreneurs in Pakistan are already showing interest in the processing stage. Dr Tariq highlighted that in addition to its economic benefits, olive plants help control soil erosion and land degradation while also reducing global warming. He said the olive’s efficiency as a carbon sync source plays a significant role in the development of Pakistan’s economy and climate, particularly in rural areas. He expressed hope that in the near future, Pakistan may even be able to substitute the import cost of edible oil with olive cultivation. According to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), the country’s palm oil import bill amounted to $364.24 million during January 2023, with an increase of 27% compared to the same month of 2022. Pakistan also imported soybean oil worth $44.36 million during the month under review, compared to $18.76 million during January 2022. The total local consumption of edible oil is 5 million metric tonnes, 30% of which is domestically produced, while 70% of the demand is met by importing refined palm oil. With the challenges posed by rising import duties and increasing prices of refined palm oil, the cultivation of olive trees in Pakistan could present a viable solution to the country’s dependence on imported edible oil.

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