The Western desert state of Rajasthan, in India, is covered by rows and rows of olive trees. India’s goal is to become the leading olive oil producer internationally, and a competitor with countries like Greece, Italy and Spain.
Rajasthan has the perfect climate for olive tree growing, long hot summers and cool short winters. Since 2008, 150,000 olive trees have been planted, with target the expansion to 3,000,000 in the next 3 years.
Most of the farmers in India, before 2007 had no knowledge about olives and olive oil. They adapted the idea, because 30% of the country’s population (the highest in the world) is suffering from high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes, and olive oil is very effective in preventing these disease.
The subsidies the government offers, makes olive production more attractive. 80% of the cost of the olive tree planting and 90% of the cost of the irrigation system, which is very expensive to install, is subsidized by the government.
The potential of olive cultivation in the area of Rajasthan is huge and more than 2 1/2 times larger than Greece, the 3rd olive oil producer worldwide. 2013 is India’s first year of commercial olive oil production.
According to the World Health Organization, in the next 7 years the country is going to suffer an economic impact of premature deaths, due to heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes, reaching the $250 billion. A better diet can reduce these deaths by 80%.
Indians have to put aside their ghee (clarified butter) and get use to the great olive oil. The International Olive Council since 2007 has started a promotion and awareness campaign and feels that India with its traditional natural and vegetarian cuisine, is going to adapt olive oil as a cooking staple.
The olive oil till now, has been used in India as an enhancement of beauty, also is used for massage, and considered as the best for skin, hair and nails.
Imports of olive oil show that demand is climbing, due to the fact that Indian’s are getting educated about the benefits olive oil has to offer.
The biggest obstacle of popular consumption of olive oil, is the enormous price for the reach of the ordinary Indians. The price is higher than any other edible oil in the market. The answer to this problem is the domestic olive cultivation.
The Indian Olive Oil Association in New Delhi, sees olive oil consumption in India with optimism. A reasonable price and availability should be the key focus to making a difference to the health problems the Indians are facing.