After Nurturing Israel-return Olives for 8 Years, Rajasthan Pioneers in Domestic Oil Production.
A part of Mediterranean is successfully thriving in the arid regions of Rajasthan. No, it’s not the beautiful white sands or lush green date palms, but little olives. The fruit introduced an additional source of income for farmers, who were struggling to make ends meet with conventional crops. Olives were previously associated with Italy and Spain, but the government was committed to investing in olive plantation. The bigger question was how to grow them in tropical, dessert climate of Rajasthan? The lessons came from Israel. Subsequently experimenting with the exotic fruits for 8 years, Rajasthan is ready to launch India’s first indigenously produced Olive Oil next month.
Success Story of Rajasthan’s Tryst with Tropical Fruits
Olive cultivation was a restricted territory for Indian farmers until 2007, when CM Vasundhara Raje‘s rigorous efforts brought olives in Rajasthan. CM, intrigued by the idea of olive plantation, visited one of the kibbutz in Negev Desert (Israel) to study economical viability of Olive cultivation, the previous year. A pilot plantation was conceived in consultation with Israeli agriculturists/plant scientists and Rajasthan decided to implement this technology under PPP (Public-Private Partnership).
Pilot farms were set up in 7 agri-climatic zones including Barore, Bassi, Bakalia, Bsabasina, Lunkaransar, Tinkirudi and 1.12 lakh saplings arrived in state. Plantlets were grown in government-supervised farms spread over 182 hectares lands. Today, these farms have expanded their area to 425.18 hectares, having around 74,064 plants in each. Consequently, Rajasthan became the first leading producer of olives in India.
Over the years, the petty green fruits have spawned a revolution in Rajasthan. In 2013, state government decided to invest in oil production. Fruit extracts was sent to Israel scientists, who confirmed the presence of up to 16% oil, as reported by Y.K. Verma, Manager at ROCL (Rajasthan Oil Cultivation Limited)– the first olive oil producing brand in India. It is a joint venture of Israel based Indolive Industry, Indian Finolex Plasson Industry and Government of Rajasthan. Till date, ROCL has successfully extracted 11,574.09 kg of olive oil from different varieties namely Arbequina, Barnea, Cortina, Frantoio, Koroneiki, Picholine and Picual.
Olive is ‘the first plantation crop of Rajasthan’. It’s cultivation is beneficial for the state because:
- Many investors and agriculturists are interested in olive cultivation due to government subsidies.
- Farmers earn around Rs. 1 lakh/year with traditional crops, but olives fetch triple the income.
- The fruit also gives higher returns per hectare.
- Olives easily survive dry, saline and arid conditions of Rajasthan.
- Considering the rising demands for olive oil, India imports up to 14,500 metric tonnes of oil every year. Each bottle of oil costs between Rs. 700 to Rs. 1000/lt. We can save this expenditure if we produce oil indigenously.
- Moreover, producing homemade olive-based items is cheaper than importing them.
GRAM 2016 Goals
GRAM 2016 is an effort to revolutionize conventional agriculture in Rajasthan. According to Agriculture Minister P. L. Saini, Rajasthan government will be launching ‘Raj Olive Oil’, India’s first indigenous oil brand at the upcoming agri-tech meet in November.
As per government, Bikaner, Ganganagar, Nagore and Hanumangarh oil factories produce the largest amount of oil in India. The state aims to develop potent marketing solutions and seeks advice in terms of their expansion.
Rajasthan government shall increase olive cultivation to 5,000 hectares in future, to fulfil oil demand of the entire country.
The Centre of Excellence for Agriculture at Bassi is currently researching on olive tea. Olives are said to prevent high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. Hence, the local food experts plan to develop 4 new flavours of olive tea, in combination with lemon, mint, ginger and holy basil.
To wrap it up, Rajasthan has opened up newer possibilities of experimentation for other states, as well. If things go according to plan, India shall surface as the leading producer of olives and olive-related products in the world, with Rajasthan at the back-end!