THE Government will push local cooking oil firms to consider extracting edible oil from maize seed to reduce huge spending on soya bean imports, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (Cropping Production) Davis Marapira has said. Zimbabwe produces an average of 30 000 tonnes of soya beans per year — which is mainly used by cooking oil companies — against annual demand of about 300 000 tonnes.
Mr Marapira told The Herald Business recently that the country used to produce cooking oil from maize seed and producers should consider that given maize production is on the rise.
“We can’t continue importing soya beans when we have enough maize and will push companies to reconsider extracting edible oil from maize,” said deputy minister Marapira. Zimbabwe spent $190 million on Command Agriculture last season, where it funded the production of over one million tonnes of maize. Farmers have already delivered 1,1 million tonnes to the Grain Marketing Board. The programme is targeting to produce three million tonnes next season, with 350 000 hectares earmarked for command agriculture. About 1,8 million families will also benefit under the Presidential scheme. Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe president Busisa Moyo said considerations would be made but local firms would need to invest in appropriate technology.
“Some years back, we used to produce cooking oil from maize and it can still be done. But the technology that most companies have can only do soya beans. It means companies will have to invest in appropriate technology. It also has to be done in a manner that will not compromise food security,” Mr Moyo, who is also chief executive of United Refineries, a Bulawayo based cooking oil manufacturing company said. While cooking oil companies have managed to raise capacity utilisation over the past few years, the supply of oilseeds has remained a challenge.
Soya bean is scarcely available on the local market but some cooking oil producers have started contracting local growers to increase soya bean production to cut reliance on imports. The OEAZ said the long term solution was to increase soya bean production from the current 30 000 tonnes to at least 150 000 tonnes per annum in the next three to five years. The increase in cotton production in the last cropping season has boosted output of cotton oilseeds. Cotton production is also expected to increase after Government indicated that it would invest $60 million under the Presidential Input Scheme. The Government is also looking at expanding sunflower production.