By Shabbir Hussain
ISLAMABAD, Jun 14 (Alliance News): Ambassador of Italy to Pakistan Andreas Ferrarese on Tuesday said that Italy was investing in a project worth €1.5 million for olive cultivation and growth in Pakistan.
The Ambassador said that Italy had always played a vital role in helping Pakistan to develop olive cultivation and technical expertise.
The “Olive Culture” project worth €1.5 million shall be executed in 26 months in suitable areas by CIHEAM Bari in cooperation with the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R) through the Pakistan Oilseed Department. It represents a continuum with all the work done by Italy in the past, with a holistic approach encompassing all stages and stakeholders.
The Ambassador hosted an event to highlight Italy’s contribution to the promotion of Olive and Olive Oil and its Value Chain in Pakistan, through the technical support of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation – AICS in Pakistan.
He said that Pakistan had a lot of potential for olives and the country could earn foreign exchange by increasing olive production and using it for commercial purposes.
He further said that fair trade was going on between the two countries at present. Pakistan’s overall exports to Italy were worth $ 763 million, its overall imports from the country were worth $754 million.
Andreas Ferrarese said that Italian olives were the best in the world in terms of quality.
Pakistan could import olives from Italy which were very good for human health, he said.
He said that the Pakistani business community in Italy could play a very important role in that regard.
Olives, he said, were an integral part of the entire Mediterranean civilization without which life and culture would be incomplete.
He said that olives were a special gift of our Mediterranean culture, which were a part of the culture of the region.
Andreas Ferrarese said that olive is an important part of our food, weddings and festivals. Similarly, olives were of special importance in the Middle East and other regions and civilizations.
He said that the importance of olives is also mentioned in the holy religious books Quran, Gospel and Bible.
The Ambassador said that Italy had always supported Pakistan’s journey in the field and “We are happy to continue with an aim to develop a sustainable, modern and rich olive culture in Pakistan.”
He said that it would not only provide quality edible oil for the Pakistani people but also help reduce the import bill of the country.
Rather, he said, “We look forward to the times when Pakistan would be among leading olive-producing and exporting countries in the world”.
Project Coordinator, CIHEAM Bari International Olive Culture, Marco Marchetti said that Italy would play an important role in the cultivation and processing of olives in Pakistan.
He said that there was a need to work more on the olive supply chain in Pakistan, the lack of which at present could not reap the benefits in Pakistan.
He said that qualified human resources, technical assistance, quality and safety standards, reference laboratories for oil certification, and phytosanitary labs were much needed in Pakistan to establish a full value chain of safe and highly nutritious tasty food that improved health dramatically.
He said that Olive Culture was an inclusive project through gender and youth, agro-tourism and culture.
Marco Marchetti said that olive contributed to mitigating climate change impact as a smart tree against soil erosion and water consumption, inducing a low carbon footprint.
These were added value benefits for achieving the desired results in the sector in Pakistan, a country which had the potential to be a world leader in olive production, he said.
He said that Italian technical assistance for Pakistan in the olive growing sector started 40 years ago with adaptive research schemes to assess the viability for modern cultivation of the crop in Pakistan (in the 80s and 90s).
It was followed by the launch of the first significant olive crop investment (2012-2015) through the Pakistan Italian Debt Swap Agreement (PIDSA), resulting in 2000 hectares of plantation in marginal and wastelands, he said.
He said that in 2016, 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 farmer communities.
More recently, in March 2022, a key project “Olive Culture Holistic and Multi-Professional Mechanism for a Pakistani Olive Oil Value Chain”, has been launched.
Marco said that the project was funded by the Italian government and implemented by the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari – CIHEAM.
Director of AICS Office in Islamabad, Emanuela Benini, said that the building of a multi-professional Olive and Olive Oil Value Chain (from soil to plate) shall ensure high quality – the paramount condition to good income.