ISLAMABAD: The Rs 45 billion olive cultivation project has been closed down more than 18 months ago due to financial irregularities. The government handed over the project to the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC). The Italian agriculture experts declared Potohar region in Punjab and some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan suitable for the olive cultivation. Some of the 500 farmers were imparted training about cultivation and protection of olive yield.The government also announced subsidy for the farmers and it was decided to give each sapling to them for Rs 5 only but the officials sold each plant for Rs 50. The mafia instead of giving the plants to farmers, made bogus companies and sold entire range imported from Italy to these so-called firms. Due to which the trained farmers had to face difficulties in getting the saplings. The experts said that if the project would have been succeeded, Pakistan would have become self-sufficient in olive production.Due to embezzlement several PARC officials were suspended and some were also arrested. The Federal Investigation Agency is probing the case. PARC spokesman told Daily Times that the case is sub judice and PARC would take action after the decision of the court. He added that the council had given proof to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Agriculture and 13 officials have been sacked.