PRIME Minister Kassim Majaliwa has ordered regional and district leaders to effectively supervise sunflower farming to make the country get rid of dependency on imported cooking oil.
He specifically issued the directive to regional and district commissioners, council directors, extension officers and cooperative unions.
"The government's goal is to increase production and efficiency by strengthening research, extension services, availability of quality seeds and pesticides, increasing the use of better farm inputs and building capacity among the producers over good farming practices," Mr Majaliwa stated yesterday when speaking to stakeholders of sunflower in Singida region.
The Premier emphasized that there was no reason of importing edible oil since the country has abundant arable land and enough workforce for agriculture.
"It is the government hope that those strategies would contribute to increasing of sunflower harvests from an average of 649,437 tons to 1.5 million tons of sunflower, something which will lead to production of 3,000,000 tons of edible oil by 2025.
The Premier said the government has continued investing in institutions dealing with production of sunflower seeds.
He said the country's current demand of cooking oil is estimated to stand at 650,000 tons but local production stands at about 290,000 tons, equivalent to 45 percent of the annual demand.
Due to the shortage, the country imports between 360,000 and 400,000 tons of edible oil annually to address the deficit.
Edible oil importation costs the country about 474bn/- annually, the monies which could have been channeled to funding other socio-economic development if the country had the capacity to produce enough cooking oil.
Due to the importance of the edible oil, the government has put in place strategies for increasing production of cooking oil producing crops to provide raw materials for edible oil production. The crops include palm, sunflower, and ground nuts.
He went on saying the government in collaboration with the private sector has decided to put a desired emphasis on sunflower crop by bringing stakeholders together and introducing campaign for better farming of the sunflower and motivate edible oil producers to embrace better technologies.
He also directed the Ministry of Agriculture to continue recognising stakeholders who invest in the sunflower production chain.
He told the ministry to link sunflower processing factories with the farmers for reliable market of their produce as well as reliable raw materials for industries.
On his part, Agriculture Minister Prof Adolf Mkenda said his docket has put strategies to improve extension services by increasing the budget for ensuring that sunflower farmers adopt better farming practices and increase efficiency.
To start with, he said the ministry has selected three regions of Dodoma, Singida and Simiyu because these regions have been cultivating various crops for cooking oil production.