This innovative farmer earns Rs 10 lakh per acre with olive farming; sells oil at Rs1500 per litre

Mukesh Manjoo, an ex-NSG commando, grows organic olives at his farm in Pilani, Rajasthan. He maximizes returns by selling olive fruits at Rs500 per kg apart from its leaves, bark, and olive oil to some of India’s top companies

Rashmi Pratap
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Mukesh Manjoo at his farm in Pilani (left) and olive oil extraction (right)

Mukesh Manjoo grows organic olives at his farm in Pilani, Rajasthan

In 2014, Mukesh Manjoo’s father, who lived in Pilani, Rajasthan, read a newspaper report about olive cultivation in the state. The Rajasthan government collaborated with the Israeli government to provide olive saplings at subsidized rates to farmers.

When Mukesh, then working as a commando with the National Security Guard (NSG), came home for the holidays, his father told him about it. Uncertain about the viability of olive farming in India, he visited the Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Ltd (ROCL) farm in Lunkaransar, Bikaner. 

“There I saw four to five years old olive trees. I saw that the trees were sturdy and could survive in the hot climate of Rajasthan. My father agreed and we planted 450 trees over two acres of our 20-acre Maanjoo Farms in 2014,” says Mukesh.

While the cost was Rs225 per plant, farmers had to pay Rs125 per plant after government subsidization. He procured olives of four varieties -- Barnea, Arbequina, Cortina, and Koroneiki. 

“Having three or four olive varieties growing close helps in adequate cross-pollination, which improves production,” he explains.

“We planted them at a gap of 20ft X 10ft though the new rule is to plant them at 20 ft X 15ft for optimum yield. The fruiting starts in the fourth year. My olive trees are in the tenth year now,” says Mukesh who took voluntary retirement from NSG services in 2018. At that time, he was posted at the Delhi Airport.

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Olive tree spacing at Manjoo Farms
Olive tree spacing at Maanjoo Farms, Pilani. Pic: Maanjoo Farms

Building multiple revenue streams from olive farming

He has created multiple revenue streams from olive trees. Mukesh sells olive fruits, leaves (dry and fresh), bark (dry and fresh) and olive oil. After harvesting in August, pruning is done in September. 

“At that time, tea companies buy fresh leaves at Rs60 per kg and dry leaves at Rs200 per kg. Similarly, dry bark sells at Rs1000 per kg while fresh is for Rs500 per kg,” Mukesh points out.

Olive leaf is high in antioxidants and Vitamin C, and olive tea is said to be a better alternative to green tea. The bark is also used in alternate medicine to cure asthma, bring down fevers and fight germs. “The annual income from these two products is Rs 4.5 lakh (Rs 1,000 per tree),” he says. 

Last year, the olive production was 8,000 kg at Maanjoo Farms. 

Fresh organic olives are sold at Rs400 to Rs500 per kg to some of the top hotels like the Hyatt, the Taj and ITC in Delhi and the Marriott in Chandigarh. “The remaining fruits are used for oil extraction,” the agripreneur says.

Olive oil extraction is done at the Lunkaransar oil processing unit in Bikaner using the expeller method (video above). “We carry the fruits there for oil extraction,” Mukesh says.

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The buyers of his organic olive oil are mostly cosmetics and food companies, which pay Rs1300 per litre. The oil is sold to retail customers at Rs 1500 per litre. “A fully ripened fruit gives higher oil than a less ripened one. The Barnea variety has a high oil content of about 18 percent,” he points out. Overall, he earns about Rs20 lakh from two acres of olive oil farming. 

“After deducting labour, manure and processing costs, the net profit is around Rs 14 lakh,” says Mukesh.

He also grows dates and other fruits on his farm. He earns Rs6 lakh per acre from organic farming of dates

Visitors at Mukesh Maanjoo's farm. 

How olive farming is done

Currently, ROCL Rajasthan is the only institution to procure good-quality olive saplings for commercial farming in the western region. Before planting the saplings, pits of 3ft X 3ft are dung, filled with cow dung manure and water and covered with soil. “You can put markings on them and when you have to plant the saplings, just open the pits and place the plants,” he says.

“Once planted, you need to take care of termites for the first year as they can attack the plants. After 12 months, ants naturally make house in olive roots and then there is no threat of termites,” he says.

Annually, each plant requires about 100 kg of cow dung manure, which Mukesh makes on the farm. “I have 10 cows of the Sahiwal and Gir indigenous breeds. I also make vermicompost for the plants,” he adds.

The plant is sturdy and does not require much water. “It can survive in temperatures ranging between minus 2 degrees Celsius to 50 degrees Celcius. “At the budding stage, we need 25-30 degree temperatures as the buds cannot survive in extreme heat or cold. After that, the trees require 1000 chilling hours (cold weather) for fruits to grow,” he says.

flowers and fruits
Olive flowers (left) and fruits (right) are ready for harvest. Pic: Maanjoo Farms

While flowering starts in January, harvesting is done in August followed by pruning in September. 

An advantage of olive oil trees is animals don’t eat them because of the tough texture of leaves. 

“Olive fruits are also very hard. Even grasshoppers can’t attack them. These trees live up to 1,000 years and can be a very good income source for farmers,” Mukesh says.

Currently, private nurseries don’t keep olive trees because grafting them requires temperature control. Mukesh, however, sells saplings through his nursery at Rs 500 per plant. “They are mostly bought by gardeners,” he adds.

(Rashmi Pratap is a Mumbai-based journalist specialising in business, financial, and socio-economic reporting)

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