Ambassador Andreas Ferrarese, Albana Ferrarese host event to highlight Italy’s contribution to the promotion of Olive and Olive Oil

Islamabad: Italian Ambassador to Pakistan Andreas Ferrarese and his wife Albana Ferrarese on Monday evening hosted an event at their residence 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.

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 2.000 hectares of plantation in marginal and wastelands. 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 are being established on a public/private partnership basis with 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. This project is funded by the Italian Government and implemented by the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari – CIHEAM.

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 & 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.

Qualified human resources, technical assistance, quality and safety standards, reference laboratories for oil certification, and phytosanitary labs are much needed in Pakistan to establish a full value chain of safe and highly nutritious, tasty food that improves health dramatically.

Olive Culture is an inclusive project through gender and youth, agro-tourism and culture. Olive contributes to mitigating climate change impact as a smart tree against soil erosion and water consumption, inducing a low carbon footprint. These are added value benefits for achieving the desired results in this sector in Pakistan, a country which has the potential to be a world leader in olive production.

Addressing the event, Ambassador Andreas Ferrarese said olive has undoubtedly been the most reverential tree in human history and with many connotations. It universally symbolizes reconciliation, friendship, light, healing and most importantly peace.

“Health benefits of olive oil are well-known and its use in cosmetics is ever-increasing for its beneficial properties. Olive and olive oil are an essential part of the Italian diet. And now we are eager to promote the Olive Culture in Pakistan through this initiative,” he added.

Ambassador Ferrarese said Italy had always supported Pakistan’s journey in this field and “we are happy to continue with an aim to develop a sustainable, modern and rich olive culture in Pakistan. This would not only provide quality edible oil for the Pakistani people but also help reduce the import bill of the country. Rather we look forward to the times when Pakistan would be among leading olive-producing and exporting countries in the world.”

Emanuela Benini, Director of AICS Office in Islamabad, on the occasion said 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.

“Olive Culture shall fruitfully involve, thanks to Italian cooperation’s 40 years’ experience and its millennial capacity regarding olive oil, from poor farmers down to health-friendly consumers, through a public and private sector partnership organised in a synergic and strategic manner,” Benini said.

Other speakers included Marco Marchetti, CIHEAM Bari International Olive Culture Project Coordinator and Dr Arif Oryakhail, Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.

The event was participated by a large number of diplomats, notables and journalists. At the end, Ambassador Ferrarese and Albana Ferrarese treated the guests with different cuisines, all cooked in olive oil.