Sunflower Oil Processors Association’s Chairman, Ringo Iringo said in Dar es Salaam last week during a stakeholders policy dialogue that edible oil processors face shortage of raw materials hence factories work for less than three months a year. Iringo said large scale investment in the sub industry by the private sector is important to increase availability of raw materials.

Themed investing on edible oil seeds production: unlocking challenges and opportunities for industrial competitiveness, food security and economic development in Tanzania, the dialogue sought to  engage actors, experts and regulators to share experiences and expertise in the development and production of edible oil seeds for industrial competitiveness.

The Oil Processors Chairman noted that the government should not entirely bank on smallholder farmers because their production capacity is low, instead it should attract large scale commercial investors by providing them enough land to grow sunflower.

Citing an example, he said currently the processing industries face shortage of raw sunflower of over 1.36 million metric tonnes to effectively and efficiently operate throughout the year that may meet the country’s edible oil demand.

He said that the current production capacity of smallholder farmers is only 352,908MT while demand for sunflower to feed the processing industries is over 1.7 million metric tonnes per annum. “As a result many processing industries operate for only a few months of the year due to lack of raw materials. The current capacity of smallholder farmers to feed the processing industries is negligible,” he said.

In order to bridge the gap, Iringo suggested that the government should allocate at least 2.1 million hectares of land to large scale commercial farmers to cultivate sunflower that will meet the edible oil manufacturers’ demand.  “Therefore, industries are being underutilised because of the low raw material supply by farmers,” he pointed out.

Explaining measures that are being taken by his association, the Chairman stated that manufacturers working with farmers to increase production of sunflower seeds. We are working with the government through Ministry of Agriculture, Tanzania Agriculture Development Bank and other development partners to increase quality and quantity of the commodity. “We are also working out strategies to support small scale min-refineries which can be available cheaply in rural areas to improve edible oil production at grass root level,” Iringo noted.

Speaking at the same event, Senior Agricultural Research Officer at TARI Ilonga, Frank Reuben said currently, Tanzania produces only 290,000 MT of edible oil a year, which is not enough to meet its demand of 650,000 MT. The country is thus compelled to spend over 447bn/- to import edible oil to offset the deficit.

Reuben said currently the government is keen to reduce Tanzania’s dependence on imported edible oil by putting in place interventions to stimulate, boosting and promote local sunflower oil seed production but also the downstream oil processing capacity.

“In addition, to ensure the sustainability of the edible oil sub-sector, the use of improved seeds, inputs, and appropriate agronomic practices should be coupled with assured markets for the edible oil products,” he stated.

In a key note speech to open the policy dialogue, Minister for Agriculture Professor, Adolf Mkenda said that the government has embarked on several strategies to address the edible oil shortfall.

Prof Mkenda named some of the strategies as including: Increasing production of improved seeds of sunflower, groundnuts, oil palm and sesame among smallholder farmers; and Increasing the budget for extension services and research activities.

“We are forced to spend billions of shillings annually to import edible oil to offset the shortage. This is a lot of money that if retained, could be used to create boost local production,” he noted. He further noted that sunflower production is facing many challenges including low yields by smallholder farmers who currently get on average of 0.7MT per acre while an international average is up to 4.0MT per acre.

According to the Agriculture Minister, despite the shortage, Tanzania is still the leader in edible oil production in East Africa, followed by Uganda while Ukraine leads globally. The policy dialogue was organized by Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in collaboration with European Union.

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