With annual demand of well over 570,000 tonnes and an output capacity of a mere 205,000 tonnes of cooking oil every year, it is no wonder Tanzanians are forced to dig deeper into their shallow pockets to buy this daily need. To cover this gap, Tanzania is forced to import over 365,000 tonnes of edible oil every year.
Meanwhile, the government has been making efforts to ensure domestic oil production increases substantially.
To that end, farmers of the requisite raw materials have been called upon to apply correct technologies and good farming practices as advised by agricultural experts so that they would eventually boost their production.
So now the government through its Ministry for Agriculture has decided to take action to increase domestic production of edible oils. To do this, the government has developed several strategic approaches including upgrading peasant technology.
This initiative fits into the country’s overall industrialization initiative that targets mainly agricultural mechanization. By increasing funding for the set up of factories and smaller production plants, Tanzania is able to increase its output of edible oils.
However, the country needs to increase seed production hand in hand with increasing its value chain capacity. This is where the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (Tari) based in Dar es Salaam comes in. A globally-renowned research institute that develops hybrid seeds among other agricultural research works.
Taking Action: Tanzania Moves To Increase Domestic Output
The Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (Tari) is now undertaking the task of seeing to it that the country, the largest in E. Africa (geographically) picks up its production of edible oils.
Speaking to the press, Tari Director-General Dr. Geofrey Mkamilo said the country’s shortage of edible oils is directly related to poor farming practices and in particular, the use of poor technology.
According to Dr Mkamilo, the issue is not raw material to make edible oils, because ‘Tanzania produces various types of crops suitable for producing raw materials for the manufacture of edible oil,’ but rather, the issue is low capacity all along the related value chain for edible oils.
Tanzania just happens to be one of the continent’s major producers of palm, sunflower, groundnuts and cotton, all of which are used to produce edible oils. Giving detailed examples, the researcher said in Tanzania, a peasant farmer cultivating about an acre of palm field is only able to produce a sheer 1.6 tonnes of oil, an amount that is far below capacity according to the researcher.
Similarly, for a farmer producing sunflower oil, he is only capable of an output capacity of less than one tonne of oil per hectare. That being the fact, Dr. Mkamilo argues that why then should the sunflower producer stick to sunflowers yet on the same acreage of land he could produce much more oil should he switch to cultivating palms instead of sunflowers?
“The sunflower grower could have produced 2.5 tonnes of oil had he engaged in cultivating palms on the same acreage,” the researcher advises.
“A sesame seed farmer can produce 0.25 to 0.5 tonnes of oil per hectare. But, sesame that is grown in Lindi Region can produce 1.0 to 1.5 tonnes of the same cooking oil compared to other regions,” he went on to point out.
That being the case, it is again obvious that it is better for Tanzanian farmers to grow sesame in the Iringa region rather than elsewhere in the country since the seeds produce almost twice their capacity if grown in Lindi Region.
Already farmers are taking action with at least 78 per cent of the Tanzanian sesame oil being produced in the Lindi and Mtwara regions.
Finally, the researcher urged on the use of hybrid seeds to increase production capacity, “…growers must get better seeds for these crops, it is the only sure way to increase productivity,” he urged.
The government researcher went on to point out that Tanzania is now working on mobilizing the use of hybrid Tenera palm seeds that are capable of producing up to five tonnes of oil per hectare compared to the regular palm seeds that produce a mere 1.6 tonnes of oil, that is almost five timeless than the hybrids.
The Tari researcher, where hybrid seeds are developed, went on to explain that the institute plans to produce better hybrid sunflower seeds that will serve to increase productivity in Dodoma and Singida regions where farmers mainly grow sunflowers.
The Power Of Hybrids: Upgrading Seed Quality
Thanks to Tari, Tanzania is considered to be among the top ten hybrid seed producers in the world specifically for sesame and groundnut seeds.
Over the span of the last five years, Tanzania, through the Tari research hub has developed two new seed varieties for sesame seeds. Dubbed Lindi 2002 and Ziada 94 these two varieties are much more superior to ordinary types and are already giving farmers increased output.
The centre has in total developed 13 types of sesame seeds through genetic engineering to make superior varieties that are drought resistant, higher-yielding as well as resistant to disease as well.
Some of these seed varieties include The Morada which comes in several varieties like the Improved Morada and Morada-2. Then there is the Lindi white, SSBS 7, SSBS 4, Bora, Naliendele 92, Mtwara 2009 and the Mtondo 13 all hybrid varieties of sesame seeds capable of much higher output per acreage.
Similarly, Tari has unprecedentedly also managed to develop six hybrid groundnut varieties over the course of just five years. These are the Kuchele 2015, Nachi 2015, Narinut 2015, Naliendele 2016, Mtwaranut 2016 and the Tanzanut 2016.
Thanks to the research work done at Tari, Tanzania has increased production of hybrid sesame seeds from a lowly five tonnes to an impressive 34 tonnes over the span of one year alone i.e. 2019/2020. Likewise, for groundnuts, Tari has increased output from three tonnes to 15 tonnes over the same one year period.
Further still, these new and better varieties of sesame seed have been distributed across a larger growing area covering 11 administrative regions instead of the earlier four regions only.
Similarly for groundnuts, they have been distributed to over 22 administrative districts reaching a total of 530 farmers’ groups throughout the country.