Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe will soon make a presentation to the Cabinet Committee on Food and Nutrition to deliberate on the prospects of enhancing production of oil seeds in a move aimed at curbing imports.
Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Mr Busisa Moyo said the country’s cooking oil producers and stock feed manufacturers have over the years been forced to import their integral raw materials owing to a massive shortage of soya beans, cotton and sunflower.
“We are part of the Command Agriculture Programme as the Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe and we will be making a presentation to the Vice-President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) on how we see soya bean, oil seeds basically because we have cotton and sunflower — we have a big deficiency there,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa was appointed by President Mugabe to spearhead the Command Agriculture Programme in his capacity as chair of the Cabinet Committee on Food Security and Nutrition — itself a cluster of the economic blueprint Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset).
“The cooking oil industry has been successful in keeping cooking oil imports out and now we need to go backwards in the value chain and look at how do we now substitute the importation of crude cooking oil and soya based protein stock feeds and go backwards to growing our own soya beans in the country,” Mr Moyo said.
He said the oil expressers industry needs a minimum of 120 000 tonnes of soya beans per year to substitute the importation of crude oil. At present, Zimbabwean cooking oil companies rely on importing soya bean and semi-processed crude oil for further processing as these are not available locally. In 2016, Zimbabwe imported crude soya bean oil worth $119,9m and more is expected to be imported this year due to low production.
“Sakunda (Holdings) has indicated that it will fund a million hectares (towards crop production) in the next five years. We think that at least 200 000 hectares of that one million should be dedicated to oil seeds, we will be making that indication to the Command Agriculture Programme committee so that we can include oil seeds as well. The focus has been on maize than other things. I think people with small grains have come up as well. We as the oil seeds (users) think we are number two in terms of the hierarchy and order of importance because oil is necessary for energy and for diet,” said Mr Moyo.
Sakunda, which is involved in several major Government energy projects, is believed to have pumped in $199 million into the Command Agriculture Programme where farmers who received free agricultural inputs were expected to pay back with grain deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board.
He said due to the shortage of soya beans, the country was being forced to import most of its stock feed.
“The country is importing a lot of stock feed at the moment for our poultry. So we can say our chickens are eating imported stock feed. We need to grow the soya here, crush it here and supply stock feed to the stock feed industry. We have a sister organisation Stockfeed Manufacturers Association of Zimbabwe, which we are very close to and we want to supply into that association and make sure they produce locally based feeds which then go into poultry, fish, pigs, ostriches and other sort of cattle rearing animal rearing activities,” said Mr Moyo.
The Stockfeed Manufacturers Association of Zimbabwe has been in existence since the early 1990s.
Although it started with a small membership, it has now grown to a point where most stockfeed manufacturers have joined including Agrifoods, Gerghaan Feeds, Capital Foods, Feedmix, Grain Marketing Board, National Foods Ltd, Profeeds, Hyperfeeds, Manyame Milling, Meadow Enterprises, Novatek Animal Health, Windmill, Irvine’s Zimbabwe, Triple C Pigs, Ice Feeds, Hamara Feeds and Fivet Animal Health.
Mr Moyo who is also the chief executive officer of United Refineries Limited (URL) said the company was in the process of engaging financial institutions to support its soya bean out grower scheme. In 2014, the Bulawayo-based agro-processing firm announced the setting aside of $2 million for soya bean contract farming. The contract farming project was aimed at improving the supply of soya bean, one of URL’s critical raw materials. However, the project has not been highly successful as only a few farmers were contracted with most of them lacking irrigation infrastructure.
“At least three banking institutions have expressed the desire to support our soya out grower scheme. We are now focusing not just on communal farmers but commercial and medium sized-from 50 hectares and up because for the small holder, soya beans is sometimes a problem because of irrigation. You need irrigation infrastructure but it’s easier to irrigate tracts of land that are a bit sizable so we need people with 40-50 hectares and even larger,” said Mr Moyo.
He said the company’s soya bean out grower scheme would target farmers in Matabeleland region, Midlands and Masvingo Provinces.
“Midlands, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South and Bulawayo’s surrounding areas, those are our preferred interlines because of the logistics costs but we need medium to large-scale commercial farmers as well,” said Mr Moyo.
URL is still to utilise its state-of-the-art stockfeed manufacturing plant it acquired from India about four years ago due to an acute shortage of soya beans and cotton in the country. The company’s stock feed product line includes soya bean meal (which is ideal for poultry animals and pigs) as well as cotton hull (which is high in fibre and ideal for cattle, chicks and mushroom growing).