TIMERGARA, May 19: More than Rs2 billion were being spent annually on import of edible oil and the amount would be doubled in 2015 owing to rapid increase in population of the country, said experts and agriculturists.During a visit to an olive farm at Dherai Talash village the other day, they said that the huge amount could be saved by converting wild olive trees in Malakand region into productive ones through modern technique of grafting.
On the occasion, District Coordination Officer Islam Zeb, Executive District Officer (agriculture) Shafiqur Rahman and Pakistan Oil Seeds Development Board (PODB) regional manager Fazal Mula Khan planted olive saplings, imported from France.
Regional heads of other related government departments, representatives of international NGOs, farmers and notables of the area were also present on the occasion.The visiting team examined the farm and appreciated the effort of PODB and Agro Development Community Citizens Board of Dherai Talash for developing olive farm.
Later, addressing a function at the hujra of Noor Mohammad, the DCO asked farmers to convert their natural wild olive trees through grafting into productive ones for which district administration would provide technical support.He said that olive oil was far better than other edible ones. “If we are self-sufficient in production of olive oil, we will save a lot of money,” he added.Fazal Mula said that import of edible oil from America and Indonesia was costing Rs2 billion annually to the country.He said that Malakand region was rich in wild olive trees. “We have about 50 million wild olive trees in the region. They are found in abundance in Dir Lower, Dir Upper, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Malakand Agency and Bajaur,” he said. He added that so far 200,000 wild olive trees had been converted into productive ones through grafting.
About the newly planted olive trees (Arbequeeina), he said it was self-pollinated species and would not require cross pollination. “Olive is a symbol of peace and economy. It is a constant service provider plant and during the recent spate of militancy olive was the only tree that survived heavy artillery shelling and bombing,” he added.He said out that oil was being extracted from seeds in Tarnab Farm, Peshawar. “We have an extraction unit and will provide small machine for oil extraction anywhere in the province on demand,” the PODB manager said. Speaking on the occasion, Shafiqur Rahman said that Malakand region was suitable for any kind of farming but the farmers needed government assistance.He asked farmers to concentrate on other production instead of wheat, barley, rice and fruits. He also promised to extend cooperation to farmers in supporting them from the agriculture department.Noor Mohammad gifted samples of pure olive oil and olive pickle to the DCO and other officers.