Michael Tome Business reporter
United Refineries Limited, a Bulawayo based edible oil manufacturer, and its partners, expect contract farmers to grow soyabean about 10 000 hectares this year under its soya bean outgrower alliance (SOBOA) initiative.
Collective farming schemes and individual farmers are expected to benefit under the programme.
Soya-bean oil and its fractions are one of Zimbabwe’s major imports, having gobbled $ 128 million in 2020, which was $ 56 million higher than the $72 million spent in 2019, accounting for 2,54 percent of total import into Zimbabwe.
According to the United Nations Comtrade, Zimbabwe’s imports of soybean oil and its fractions, from South Africa, stood at US$69,03 million in 2020. While South Africa is the largest supplier of soyabean and its fractions to Zimbabwe, a significant portion of raw materials also comes from Argentina, Mauritius, Brazil, Korea Zambia, and China.
According to United Refineries chief executive officer Busisa Moyo this year’s level of response to the SOBOA initiative by the farming community has been encouraging.
“SOBOA scheme is running, we are contracting farmers right now, at the moment we are close to the 3000 hectares mark, through farmers that are supporting our Soyabean growers’ network.
“We hope we will get up to 10 000 hectares from our grower’s network for the 2021-22 farming season, this is the first time we have been able to put this program to farmers at this big scale,” said Mr Moyo.
United Refineries’ partnership with farmers was prompted by the critical need to ensure local production of soyabean for crushing and manufacturing cooking oil.
Having locally produced soyabean will shrink the demand for imported crude degummed soya bean oil (CDSBO), which will in turn lower the amount of foreign currency used to purchase cooking oil raw material.
SOBOA is a United Refineries Limited initiative where the Bulawayo based firm works with multi-sectoral partners to boost soya bean production in Zimbabwe.
The SOBOA initiative kicked off in 2018 when the United Refineries Limited united with Zimbabwe Agriculture Development Trust (ZADT), Agribank, Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ), ZB, and FBC to boost soyabean production.
According to ZimStats data, Zimbabwe managed to harvest 71 290 tonnes in the 2020 – 21 soyabean production from a national hectarage of 46 158 and Zimbabwe still imports huge quantities of soya beans, due to low levels of production.
Zimbabwe requires up to 750 000 tonnes of soyabeans per year for cooking oil production to attain self-sufficiency, which translates to at least 350 000 hectares of land for cultivation.
Stockfeed alone consumes about 240 000 tonnes of soyabean per year.