KENYA – The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) of Kenya has unveiled ambitious plans to significantly boost sunflower production for edible oil, with the aim of increasing the country’s edible oil production from 5% to 50% over the next five years.

The initiative represents a crucial step towards greater food security and economic growth for the nation, emphasizing Kenya’s commitment to self-sufficiency in edible oil production.

The move comes is in response to the heavy reliance on edible oil imports, which currently make up 95 % of the country’s consumption.

As part of this initiative, AFA intends to import 500 metric tonnes of sunflower seeds from Zambia, distributing them to farmers across 24 Kenyan counties as part of the Edible Oils Promotion project.

The targeted counties include Bungoma, Busia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Kitui, Kilifi, Kakamega, Meru, Lamu, Makueni, Embu, Taita Taveta, and Kwale.

This announcement was made during a stakeholders meeting in Naivasha, where discussions focused on strategies to enhance edible oil production while reducing the current import bill.

The Director of Crops in the Ministry of Agriculture, Douglas Kangi, stated that the ministry is collaborating with the 24 counties to achieve their production goals.

“The government has allocated Ksh 1 billion for this initiative, with a particular emphasis on sunflower cultivation, as global demand for macadamia has decreased,” he added.

“Under the Edible Oils Promotion project, AFA intends to expand the land under sunflower cultivation from 50,000 acres to 250,000 acres by the next year.”

Kangi emphasized the cost-effectiveness and relatively short maturation period of sunflower, making it an ideal choice for the project.

Peterson Muthathai, a board member of AFA, noted that 500 metric tonnes of sunflower seeds procured from Zambia will arrive in Kenya by the end of October.

Additionally, the Kenya Seed Company has 70 metric tonnes of sunflower seeds for multiplication, and the 500 metric tonnes will be distributed to registered farmers.

Gideon Menjo from the Presidential Economic Transformation secretariat emphasized the significant savings that can be achieved by increasing local edible oil production.

Currently, Kenya spends over Ksh 160 billion annually on edible oil imports with previous duty-free imports of edible oil originally intended to protect consumers from high prices.

Increasing local production will not only reduce the import bill but also strengthen the country’s food security and self-reliance.

Additionally, the Kenyan government has initiated the review process for the proposed Coconut and Cashew Nut Bill, 2023, aimed at revitalizing the cashew nut and coconut sectors in the coastal regions of the country.

The bill aims to introduce comprehensive regulations governing the production, processing, marketing, grading, storage, transportation, and warehousing of coconut and cashew nuts.

Key provisions include the establishment of the Coconut and Cashew Nut Board of Kenya, which will oversee the regulation, production, grading, storage, auctioning, marketing, research, and development of these crops.