Windhoek — The Shadikongoro Irrigation Project is ready to put its first batch of sunflower oil on the shelves of stores, following months of hawking the much sought-after product at street markets in Rundu.
The project has just received its retail barcode labelling system that makes it possible to sell the product in retail chain shops. The finalisation of the barcode has sparked a great deal of interest from retail shops to stock the locally produced sunflower oil, according to Shadikongoro Irrigation Project manager Floris Smith. The green scheme applied for the barcode in 2011 already.
The irrigation scheme has an oil pressing plant that produces about 7 000 litres of cooking oil on a two-week cycle, producing 40 litres per hour at its maximum pressing capacity. The project started producing cooking oil in March 2011 and has produced 40 000 litres of cooking oil during the last 12 months. Smith says plans are underway to expand the pressing capacity by 36 percent to meet the high demand for cooking oil countrywide.
The Shadikongoro Irrigation Project in the Kavango Region is one of Namibia's seven green schemes under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. The scheme sells 20 litres of cooking oil for N$120, 5 litres for N$50, 2 litres for N$20, while the 750 ml bottle costs only N$10. Smith, who spoke to New Era last week, said the demand is high although at the moment transport and logistics has limited the distribution of oil to the Kavango Region.
"The further you take it, the more expensive it gets. Those who need the cooking oil come to the farm and buy it," he said. Sunflower oil is renowned for its 'heart-smart' values and its ability to lower the total low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. The green scheme does its own labelling and bottling on site.
Sunflower cake from the project is sold to Feedmasters in Windhoek for the production of cattle feed.
Currently some of the greatest challenges facing the project include the shortage of seeds and inadequate land to produce more oil, including the ever-changing weather patterns in the country. During winter, the plant stands idle and cannot operate due to the cold weather.
Smith says now that it is hot the weather is more favourable to produce oil because machines work more optimally. "August last year to date we sold 20 000 litres of oil. Despite all the challenges we still made a profit enough to sustain production," he revealed.
The Shadikongoro scheme uses central pivot irrigation systems along the Kavango River where there is an abundance of water. It was established with the aim to realise the sustainable utilisation of the country's natural resources to the greater benefit of citizens and to put 30 000 hectares of land under food production by 2030, as part of the government's long-term plan to achieve food security. Only about 100 hectares of the 30 000 hectares is dedicated to sunflower production.
The Shadikongoro project also produces mahangu, maize and wheat. A number of small-scale farmers are on the farm to diversify production, while earning extra income from the mahangu or maize that they sell to the government. The project also provides water, machinery and fertilisers to small-scale farmers to produce maize. The Shadikongoro green scheme employs close to 50 permanent workers with more than 300 casuals per season depending on the availability of work.