In Pakistan’s olive-rich tribal areas, lone oil plant begins operations

Locals in Bajaur district pack olives for onward delivery to the processing plant on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department)
Updated 28 October 2019

In Pakistan’s olive-rich tribal areas, lone oil plant begins operations

  • Olive oil derived from improved plant varieties is intended for export by next year, officials say
  • Local olive farmers in the region are looking to cash in on the increase in interest and demand

PESHAWAR: The first ever olive processing plant set up in a Pakistani tribal district, in a region that borders Afghanistan, has started producing olive oil, the top district administrator said on Thursday.
Wild olive plants grow in the millions in the erstwhile tribal regions, but until about a decade ago, these plants had little commercial value and were used mainly for timber and fire-wood.
But following the grafting of 150,000 wild olive plants into cultivars, an artificially bred and improved variety of the plant, the olive oil processing plant in Bajaur is now in business. The cultivars are created through grafting, where a single bud from a desirable tree is slipped into the bark on a small seedling to produce farmer-friendly varieties of the plant that are resistant to diseases, have a low juvenile period and a longer fruiting life.




Olive fruits picked and ready for processing at Bajaur’s oil processing plant on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department) 

“Oil production has started but in low quantity. I hope from next year, oil production will increase for commercial purposes,” Muhammad Usman Mehsud, deputy commissioner of Bajaur, told Arab News, and added that efforts had been intensified to begin exporting the oil from next year.
“The agriculture extension department intends to graft 1.6 million wild olive groves through improved olive varieties. Right now, we have up to 6,000 grafted olive plants bearing fruit,” he said.




Bottles of refined olive oil labelled “Bajaur Olive Oil,” on display, from the district’s first oil processing plant. Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department)  

Olives, known locally as Zaintoon or Khuna, have 30 different species and a life span of between 900 to 1,000 years. According to experts in Pakistan, they are one of the world’s most drought resistant trees and thrive well where annual average rainfall is between 900 to 1,000 mm without irrigation.
Of the grafted olive species, 30,000 olive plants are already bearing fruit, Zia-ul-Islam Dawar, the district agriculture officer, told Arab News.
“One olive plant produces 60 to 70 kg of oil, while the processing plant has the capacity to produce 200 kg of oil per hour,” he said and added that his department planned on grafting wild olive groves under a government scheme known as the ‘Promotion of Olive Cultivation for Oil Production in Bajaur.’




Pickled olives from Bajaur’s first ever olive processing plant. Oct. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department) 

“The agriculture department has established new orchards on 160 acres of land in the district under various developmental schemes in the year 2018-19,” Dawar said, and added that the farmers too, are looking to cash in on the increase in business in the region.
One liter of olive oil costs approximately Rs. 1,600 ($10) in the open market.
Shah Khalid, a tribal elder and farmer, said the district’s tribesmen were enthusiastically participating in the planting and development of olive cultivars due to the increase in demand in local as well as international markets.




A bottle of olive oil, a product of Bajaur’s lone oil processing plant. Oct. 22, 2019. (Photo credit: Bajaur agriculture extension department) 

“More and more farmers are now inclined to establish olive orchards in Bajaur because they know about its skyrocketing price. I suggest the government should declare Bajaur Pakistan’s olive valley to spur a revolution in the economy and to woo more growers and investors,” Khalid said.
Parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the newly-merged tribal districts have conducive agro-climatic conditions for olive plantation, with 36,000 million wild olive trees growing in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal areas, he said.
Olive oil is used in Pakistan and around the world for cooking, eating, confectionary, cosmetics and for its many health benefits.


Saudi team meets Pakistani health officials to expedite work on new hospital 

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi team meets Pakistani health officials to expedite work on new hospital 

  •  200-bed first ever tertiary care hospital being jointly built by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in rural Islamabad
  • Saudi Arabia building hospital as “gift to people of Pakistan” through Saudi Fund for Development,” Saudi ambassador says 

ISLAMABAD: A Saudi delegation met with top officials of Pakistan’s health ministry late last week to discuss ways to expedite construction of the first-ever tertiary care hospital in rural Islamabad, the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud Hospital, a senior official
 at Pakistan’s health ministry said on Tuesday.

Construction is underway for King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Hospital in Islamabad on Feb. 26, 2020. (AN photo)

The Saudi delegation was led by Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Regional Manager Dr. Saud Al Shammari and the Pakistani side by Director General Health, Malik Muhammad Safi.

Workers are seen at the construction site of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Hospital in Islamabad on Feb. 26, 2020. (AN photo)

“The total cost of the [hospital] building is Rs2,500 million, out of which Rs500 million was the cost of the land, which was provided by the Pakistani government while the remaining Rs2,000 million would be spent by the Saudi side,” Safi told Arab News in an interview
 in Islamabad on Tuesday.

He said Saudi officials had suspended the contractor hired by them earlier as they were not satisfied with progress on the project.

Workers are seen at the construction site of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Hospital in Islamabad on Feb. 26, 2020. (AN photo)

“During the meeting last week, the Saudi delegation informed us that they [Saudis] have voided the previous contractor and now are discussing hiring a new firm,” Safi said. “It will take another four months to complete the process of hiring through international bidding.”

After a new contractor is hired, it will take two years to complete the first phase of the 200-bed hospital, to which another 300 beds would be added in the future, Safi said.

“Pakistan has built a complete boundary wall and installed gates on the plot and possession has been given to Saudi officials,” he said. “Now they [Saudis] will take over control of further construction process. Their technical team is coordinating with our team to
 complete and expedite the work.”

Safi said the hospital would benefit over three million people from both urban and rural Islamabad. 

“Saudi Arabia is building a hospital in Islamabad as a gift to the people of Pakistan through the Saudi Fund for Development,” Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, told Arab News in Islamabad. “There are many welfare projects in the pipeline for
 the Pakistani people and they will be executed by different Saudi agencies all over Pakistan.”