MALAWI – Malawi, a net importer of cooking oil, is set to witness a significant transformation in its cooking oil production landscape with the commissioning of a state-of-the-art cooking oil refining plant by Bakhresa Malawi Limited.

This subsidiary of the Bakhresa Group, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, plans to unveil the plant in Blantyre between April and May 2024, representing a major milestone in the country’s quest for self-sufficiency in cooking oil production.

Richard Tchereko, the Director of Human Resources at Bakhresa Malawi, reported that the construction of the plant is already 80% complete, with a total investment of 170 billion kwachas ($101 million) mobilized for the project.

“The plant’s initial capacity is set to crush 500 tonnes of soya per day, primarily for extracting crude oil. In addition to cooking oil, the facility will produce various by-products and derived products, including soybean meal, lecithin, free fatty acids, and soap, with a focus on export markets,” he said.

In addition, to ensure a stable supply of raw materials, Bakhresa Malawi has forged partnerships with local producers and farmer cooperatives, aiming to procure 150,000 tonnes of soya annually.

According to Richard, the collaboration accounts for around half of Malawi’s national soya production, which stands at approximately 300,000 tonnes.

He added that the initiative goes beyond business objectives, intending to encourage small farmers to diversify their crops and expand soya cultivation.

“The project should encourage small farmers to diversify their crops and grow more soya. The cooking oil produced in our factory can help the local industry to substitute imports and contribute to the foreign exchange economy,” he said.

Recently, despite being a significant exporter of oil seeds, Malawi has been grappling with a disproportionate reliance on imported cooking oil.

Meanwhile, the government has been urged to designate cooking oil as an essential product, accompanied by appropriate legislation to govern its production and consumption.

As of now, the demand for cooking oil in Malawi far surpasses the local supply capacity, with a considerable amount of crude oil being imported for refining.

The new plant by Bakhresa Malawi is expected to play a pivotal role in meeting this demand and driving positive economic and health outcomes for the country.

Data from the Trademap platform revealed that in 2022, Malawi imported more than US$51.3 million worth of oils and fats, underlining the significance of Bakhresa Malawi’s investment in enhancing the country’s self-sufficiency in cooking oil production.

The project holds promise not only for the company and the agricultural sector but also for the broader economic landscape of Malawi.