Potential of Olives and Olive Oil in Pakistan

The study entitled ‘Potential of Olives and Olive Oil in Pakistan’ has been completed by The Pakistan Business Council (PBC) as part of its “Make-in-Pakistan” initiative. To carry out this sector study, PBC conducted discussions with the stakeholders and secondary research. The study examines the olive sector of Pakistan in order to explore the potential of reducing reliance on imported edible oils and makes corresponding recommendations.

Pakistan imports edible oil worth USD 3.5 billion per annum. Though most of this is palm oil which suits the culinary habits and to date has been difficult to indigenize, amongst the government’s strategy to promote alternative local sources to reduce reliance on imports and potentially promote exports is an ambitious target of planting over 50 million olive trees on marginalized lands. This would also generate income and employment opportunities. To achieve this target, the government has taken exceptional measures such as: providing subsidies to farmers, imparting technical training and providing large quantities of olive saplings free-of-cost. It has been successfully established that good quality olives can be grown in Pakistan, in particular in the regions of Potohar Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan where the climate and topography is suitable for growing olives.

At present, the sector does not have a demand driven growth strategy and the thrust of activities are focused on the supply side without conducting a thorough assessment of the domestic and/or export markets.  Pakistan currently imports only USD 11 million worth of olive oil, which is a small portion of its edible oil market. Olive oil has failed to enter the mainstream domestic market due to the nature of local cuisines, which involve high temperature cooking for which olive oil is not ideal. There is a preference of consumers for the more readily available and cheaper palm and soybean oils. Given this scenario, it is unrealistic to expect that locally produced olive oil will deliver a significant opportunity for import substitution and have any sizeable impact on Pakistan’s edible oil import bill.

The olive oil sector is however growing internationally and there is an opportunity for Pakistan to export it along with other value-added products to markets where there is demand for healthier foods. But these international markets have not yet been analyzed and no conclusive evidence is available that olive oil produced in Pakistan can compete with the existing and established brands there.

The olive sector is expected to have limited growth unless the significant challenges are addressed. It is recommended that first, comprehensive demand-side studies should be conducted to identify the key value-added products and target markets for olives grown in Pakistan, and then the focus should move on to improving the supply and quality of produce as per the market requirements. Moreover, private sector investment should be mobilized for continued sustainable growth of the sector.


The PBC is a private sector not-for-profit advocacy platform set-up in 2005 by 14 (now 89) of Pakistan’s largest businesses. PBC’s research-based advocacy supports measures which improve Pakistani industry’s regional and global competitiveness.