Government to promote sunflower farming to cut imports of cooking oil |


The government has embarked on an ambitious bid to promote the growth of sunflowers in the country to reduce the import bill for edible oils and lower the prices of cooking oil in the country.

Kenya spends at least Sh160 billion annually to import edible oils from other countries mainly South-East Asian countries.

In a bid to bridge the gap, the State has now earmarked about 24 counties that are set to benefit from the sunflower promotion project that aims to boost local production of sunflower oil and address the cost of edible oils in the country.

Through the five-year edible oil promotion project, the government has pumped in Sh1 billion and 570 metric tonnes of seedlings, which will be distributed to farmers in the selected counties beginning this month.

The project will be rolled out in the counties of Nakuru, Bungoma, Busia, Uasin Gishu, Meru, Kwale, Kilifi, Homabay, Nyeri, Lamu, Kakamega, Kitui, Embu, Makueni among others.

Farmers who will be engaged in the sunflower farming project that seeks to increase farm production of sunflowers to a million acres will benefit from the state-subsidized fertilizer to lower production costs.

Under the project, the counties will coordinate the distribution of certified seedlings to farmers, subsidized fertilizer, provide market linkages, and enhance value addition of produce to boost farmers’ earnings.

According to Dr Dominic Menjo, Food Advisor to President Dr William Ruto, the project aims to increase the production acreage of sunflowers from the current 4,000 acres to 200,000 acres by next year.

“We want to start promoting the growing of sunflower, soya and canola oil crops. This will help to reduce the huge import bill as Kenya has the capacity to produce edible oils,” revealed Dr Menjo.

“The project majorly aims at lowering the high import bill of edible oils, which currently stands at Sh. 160 billion annually where more than 90 percent of edible oils are imported for local use, added Dr Menjo.

The five value chains that the State has earmarked to boost the local production of edible oils include; sunflower oil, palm oil, coconut oil, soya bean oil, and canola oil.

According to data from the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate under the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Kenya produces only 34 percent of its edible oils and fat requirements, with the deficit being imported mainly from South-East Asian countries.

The country remains a net importer of vegetable oils as local production has not grown to meet the local demand, yet many oil seeds such as sunflower, simsim, soya beans, rapeseed (canola), coconut, castor and groundnuts can be grown and processed locally.

In February this year, the government put an import duty waiver on edible oil, a move that did not go well with local manufacturers.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) said the duty waiver was against the East African Community’s common external tariff rules.

The EAC-CET trade regulation attracts a 35 percent import duty on imported finished goods such as edible oil. This, according to KAM, is aimed at encouraging and promoting local production.

According to AFA, the country’s import bill of edible oils has been increasing at an annual rate of 15 percent due to increasing demand locally.

The Nation also established yesterday that the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has been undertaking research on oil palm in the Western region.

The research was started seven years ago and over 300 oil palm trees have been planted in 10-acre pieces of land.

“The price of cooking oil, you know very well, has increased and this calls for more funding from the national government to revive this industry to enable us to produce oil that can sustain the country,” revealed a senior manager at the Naivasha-based KALRO.

On his part, Douglas Kangi, the Director of Crop Resources at AFA, said the government will enhance its policy interventions to ensure successful implementation by counties to boost the local production gap of edible oils.

“We consume more than 900 metric tonnes of edible oils annually from which only six percent is sourced locally and this project seeks to reverse this trend”, said Kangi.

Kangi regrettably said that Kenya is insufficient in all the food value chains making it reliant on imports with the country footing a huge food import bill of Sh500 annually.

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