TANZANIA – Tanzania imports 60 per cent of total edible oil requirement despite having vast and promising production potential in the sunflower sub-sector, Bank of Tanzania (BoT) research shows.

The production potential is missed as the national average yield is 0.6 tonnes compared to potential yield of 2.0 to 3 tonnes per acre.

The BoT Research paper ‘Potentiality of Sunflower Sub-sector in Tanzania of March 2017’ shows that local production of both factory and home extracted sunflower seed oil contributes about 40 per cent of edible oil requirement of 330,000 tonnes.

The 60 per cent gap is filled by imports. “This sub-sector is largely untapped…measures to boost sunflower production would definitely impact significantly on economic wellbeing…” the report says.

However, despite the promising potentials in the sub-sector, sunflower production still is relatively low and benefits from its value chain have not been adequately realized.

Tanzania developed Sunflower Sector Development Strategy in March 2016 which outlines comprehensive approaches on how to promote sunflower sector in the country and identifies the role of each stakeholder in the development of the sector.

The BoT figures on sunflower seed output seem to correspond with that of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation UNIDO which put annual output of around 350,000 tonnes of sunflower oilseeds, corresponding to about 90,000 tonnes of oil, making Tanzania is one of the top ten sunflower oilseed producers in the world.

Sunflowers are grown all over the country, mostly by small-scale farmers. Therefore the development of the sunflower oil sector has a great potential for improving livelihoods and the welfare of relatively poorer households.

According to 2015 FAO data, South Africa is the largest sunflower seeds producer accounting for 46 per cent of total continent’s production, followed by Tanzania with 35 per cent.

The research identified some challenges behind low yield of sunflower seeds as hand hoe (50 per cent) remain dominant means of farming in this sub-sector followed by oxen-plough (32 per cent), power tiller 16 per cent and tractor 2 per cent.

This led to low production as on average production of sunflower seeds was nine bags per acre.

This productivity level contrasts markedly with 18-22 bags per acre in modern farming.

For instance it was found that on average one bag of sunflower seeds with 65 kgs produces between 18 and 22 liters of cooking oil, which is far below 30 liters, a level that is usually achieved by global millers.

Other challenges need to be addressed are availability of extension officers, access to affordable credits, inputs to the farmers and enhance engagement of Public Private Partnership (PPP).

Despite failing to feed the national demand, exports of sunflower products, namely seeds, oil and cake, ballooned 70 times to 70 million US dollars in nine years to 2014.

India was the largest export destination of Tanzania’s sunflower products, accounting for 82 per cent, followed by Kenya and Switzerland each with 5.0 per cent of the total value of sunflower exports.

April 4, 2017: Daily News