Dar es Salaam — Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa yesterday said the government is committed to working on challenges plaguing sunflower production in order to save the Sh474 billion spent annually on importing cooking oil.
Mr Majaliwa believes that the amount spent on importing 360,000 to 400,000 tonnes of the product annually could be used in implementing development projects.
The premier was speaking in Singida Region during the launch of a national campaign to increase sunflower production in order to improve cooking oil production that brought together several stakeholders from the public and private sector.
"Sh474 billion could be used for implementation of development projects, including schools, healthcare centres, roads, etc. The money could be served through implementation of a special strategy to increase production of sunflower, palm oil, cotton, groundnuts, sesame etc used for producing edible oil," he said.
He said the country's demand for cooking oil stood at 650,000 tonnes, saying 290,000 tonnes was produced annually, demanding importation of about 450,000 tonnes to close the gap.
According to him, the campaign launched yesterday aims at producing one million tonnes of sunflower, up from 649,437 tonnes in 2019/20, and 561,297 tonnes in 2018/19.
"The amount is enough to produce 300,000 tonnes of cooking oil by 2025. Therefore, the budget for the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (Tari) was increased to Sh11.63 billion in the 2021/22 fiscal year from Sh7.35 billion in 2020/21," he said.
Likewise, the budget for the Agricultural Seeds Authority (Asa) was increased to Sh10.8 billion in the 2021/22 season from Sh5.42 billion in 2020/21.
He said sunflower production could make Tanzanians rich in just three to four months, challenging regional and district commissioners to mobilize citizens to engage in the crop cultivation in their areas of jurisdictions, observing that success in such campaigns could assess them.
Providing an overview, Agriculture minister Adolf Mkenda said absence of linkage between farmers, processors and financial institutions, insufficient supply of quality seeds and lack of expertise and capital were among the known challenges.
"We should increase sunflower production for edible oil manufacturing for domestic and export purposes because they are the safest as they contain low cholesterol as compared to palm oil imports," he said.
Detailing the ministries strategies, deputy Agriculture minister Hussein Bashe said Tanzania produced 868 tonnes of seeds out of the 5,530 tonnes needed - thus resulting in a deficit of 4,662 tonnes.
"At least 3,900 tonnes will be purchased during the campaign as we strengthen domestic production of quality seeds," he pledged.
In order to promote contract farming, the seeds will be provided to processing firms and later farmers," he said.
Farmers will only make payment for the subsidized seeds at about 50 percent after the companies have collected sunflower from them, hinting that financial institutions have made significant commitment in the campaign.