Dar es Salaam. Despite the good production and business environment for sunflower cultivation in Tanzania, the country remains an importer of edible cooking oil.
Last week, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said the country was spending more than 474 billion shillings to import 360,000 to 400,000 tonnes of the product per year.
According to him, this goes against the total annual demand of 650,000 tonnes, which means that the country only produces 290,000 tonnes.
Stakeholders note, however, that there are many shortcomings in sunflower production for the manufacture of edible oil that require effective interventions for the sector to perform better and develop.
Low productivity, poor improved seed distribution system, taxes, lack of extension services and climate change are among the main challenges identified by stakeholders in the sunflower value chain.
The widespread adoption of improved seeds is one of the main drivers of increased production of sunflower oil in Tanzania, already one of the largest producers of this crop in Africa, according to Mr. Peter Mwasalyanda, producer. and sunflower transformer.
He said: âSeeds are kind of expensive for small farmers because a kilo is sold for Sh 30,000 and sometimes it is not enough for a hectare cultivated.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an average of 979 kilograms of sunflower is produced per hectare.
Low production results in low raw material content for sunflower oil processing companies, Mwasalyanda told The Citizen.
âThere are a few sunflower growers in the regions who are actively involved in the production of the crop to feed the processing factories in terms of raw materials,â he said.
Mr. Mwasalyanda said production could only meet the demands of small-scale processors, as large companies could import raw materials from other countries and meet production demands.
However, it is small farmers who dominate sunflower production and processing, mainly carried out by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Sunflower production has also been affected by climate change; this is because the culture generally thrives in hot weather, as the culture can withstand higher temperatures. The regions of the central zone, notably Singida and Dodoma, have ideal soil and climate suitable for sunflower production.
“When it rains above average, crop yields decrease in production areas, therefore, insufficient raw materials will be supplied for processing, resulting in low domestic production of cooking oil. âSaid Mr. Mwasalyanda.
Dodoma-based sunflower processor Amina Majengo said quality seeds had been supplied to order, noting that any delays in rush orders made it difficult to obtain farmers.
âThis gives most processors difficulty despite the fact that there are traditional seeds that are sold at low prices,â she said.
Another challenge facing sunflower production, Ms. Majengo said, is the lack of adequate government support, especially extension agents specializing in cultivation, a pattern that is repeated in other strategic crops as well.
His concern was supported by another processor who advised the government to get more involved with farmers to make them more aware of the crop they produce and to adopt advanced farming techniques and best practices.
As a processor, she observed, they sometimes contracted with farmers to supply raw materials to processors, noting that little or no government intervention on businesses hampers the growth of the sub-sector. crucial.
âProcessors can decide to do contract farming instead of growing the crop themselves. However, disputes arise during the payments as some farmers reject the agreement reached, including the amount, âshe said.
Price fluctuations and taxes are the other challenges highlighted by stakeholders as slowing the growth of the sub-sector.
Mr. Mwasalyanda told the Citizen that the government should work to remove barriers and encourage low-cost large-scale seed production, which would attract many businesses and individuals to the sector. âThe price of sunflower crops fluctuates a lot, there are also high prices for refinery technology and machinery,â he said.
Ms Majengo said tax authorities should also systematically monitor processors and farmers instead of focusing only on the known.
She said: âSome are harassed to pay taxes while others are left alone to do their business in peace. They should identify and regulate all companies in order to create and maintain equity in the market. “
âThose who are not generally visited by TRA offer lower prices than those who are heavily taxed. This creates unfair competition in the market, âMs. Majengo added.
During a parliamentary session in May 2021, Deputy Agriculture Minister Hussein Bashe said the government intended to increase cooking oil production to 400,000 tonnes in the next two fiscal years.
He said nearly 10.6 billion shillings had been allocated in fiscal year 2021/22 for the purchase of quality sunflower seeds.
He said 680 extension workers in Singida, Dodoma and Simiyu will receive motorcycles; receive regular training, smartphones and soil kits to increase their efficiency at the service of farmers in the regions.
According to the minister, the achievements of the three regions will be multiplied to other regions, being the efforts of the sixth government so that the country maintains itself in cooking oil and exports the surplus.