Kiyapili Sibanda, Business Reporter
INCREASING soya bean production is the solution to reducing pressure on foreign currency demand to import the crucial raw materials, cooking oil producers have said.
Zimbabwe is losing about $200 million through soya beans imports per year with at least $5 million required weekly to import soya beans, crude edible oils and other raw materials to meet the national demand for cooking oil and other related products.
In a statement, Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe (OEAZ) said its members were working with different stakeholders and authorities to develop and strengthen the soya bean value chain as part of the solution to raw material supply challenges.
The OEAZ acknowledged Government’s import management policies and industry support measures that have led to increased investment and production in the sector.
“The OEAZ will continue working with relevant authorities and stakeholders towards the developing, and strengthening the soya value chain as part of the medium-to-long term solution to raw material supply challenges. This would contribute towards increasing agriculture production of soya beans, thereby reducing pressure on foreign currency demand to import this raw material in the coming years,” reads the statement.
The producers’ position come on the back of widespread price increases, particularly for cooking oil, which saw a two-litre bottle being sold at $5 or more from about $3,50.
The situation was exacerbated by temporary shortages spurred by hoarding after producers cited foreign currency shortages.
OEAZ, a grouping of seven producers who supply 95 percent of the country’s edible oils, has in return accused retailers of unjustifiably increasing the price of cooking oil to consumers.
In August this year, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for cropping, Davis Marapira said Government will give 10 kilogrammes of soya bean seed to each farmer who will benefit from the Presidential Inputs Scheme so that the country does not lose money on imports.
The crop has already been put under Command Agriculture as Government seeks to stop importing soya beans through supporting farmers.
Meanwhile, EOAZ said their goal was to achieve export competitiveness through localisation of oilseed production, re-tooling and economies of scale to supply valued added products at affordable prices to consumers.
Zimbabwean farmers produce an average of 30 000 tonnes of soya bean per year, against demand of about 300 000 tonnes.
Some local cooking oil producers have started contracting local growers to increase soya beans production to reduce reliance on imports.