Govt to prioritise soya bean production: VP Mnangagwa
THE cooking oil manufacturing industry in Zimbabwe is now able to produce enough to meet local demand but is being constrained by shortages of raw materials.
As such the Government is considering including soya bean among crops whose production it will be supporting through various initiatives, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said last week.
He said this after touring two local cooking oil producers, Surface Wilmar and Pure Oil Industries, to get an appreciation of the operations of the industry and the constraints they were facing.
Officials at the companies said they had increased production after the Government restricted importation of cooking oil but were being constrained by shortage of soya bean and cotton seed, which are used to produce the commodity and other by-products.
As a result, Pure Oil for example, was importing at least 50 percent of its raw materials, which could be easily produced locally. Zimbabwe requires at least 12 million litres of cooking oil per month.
VP Mnangagwa told journalists after the tour that the Government would also consider prioritising soya bean production as well as improve farmer awareness on the need to take up production of the crop.
“Because of this exposure we can also take soya bean on board and have a programme (to support its production). We’ve asked the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to give us statistics on how much soya bean is required in the oil industry in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“When quantified, we should then be able to say how much soya bean is produced per hectare, then we know how many hectares must be put to soya bean production, and we support the programme. At the end of perhaps three or four seasons, we should have adequate production of soya bean.”
He said local farmers were not aware of the importance of growing soya bean and that it had a ready market. The Government recently adopted a command agriculture scheme to boost maize production and the VP said a similar scheme could be adopted for soya bean production.
“There are companies that are ready to move with the Government programme and have local production grow and therefore we’re going to bring the subject of soya bean to our committee for national food production and security,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa also lauded the Ministry of Industry and Commerce for making “correct recommendations” to the Government on restricting imports of cooking oil through Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, which came into effect at the beginning of July this year.
“It (the tour) has shown that our Ministry of Industry and Commerce made correct recommendations to the Government through SI 64 because as a result of that, we’re now producing cooking oil in Zimbabwe and I’m advised that we’ve domestic supplies being produced locally and this has reduced our import bill,” he said.
Officials from the two companies also encouraged the Government to consider proposals by industry to support corporate farming initiatives to boost agricultural production. National Foods chief executive Mr Michael Lashbrook said his firm was investing over $8 million annually in contract farming for its raw materials.
“We’ve the appetite to invest more given the right environment,” he said.
Surface Wilmar chief executive Mr Slyvester Mangani said his firm was exploring options to support soya bean production on 1 500 hectares of land in Karoi and Bindura.
“Surface is also supporting farmers by offering to buy all soya bean available and paying prices consistently above the import parity price,” he said. — New Ziana
VP Emmerson Mnangagwa