Farmers in Mbeya discover ‘gold’ in sunflower farming

14Jan 2020
The Guardian
Farmers in Mbeya discover ‘gold’ in sunflower farming

FARMERS in Mbeya Region have started shifting their attention to modern sunflower farming—the venture that has proved to be highly productive as compared to traditional ones.

In separate interviews, farmers said that the use of hybrid sunflower seeds, and production cost is lower than the income are among the factors that push them into engaging in the one of the income earning crops in the country.

They described the crop as a lucrative crop rather than relying on traditional crops such as maize whose prices are unreliable.

One of the farmers in Songwe area of Mbeya District, George Simchinga said: “In the past, sunflower wasn’t a priority crop, because we didn’t know its benefits. But, now everyone is getting into it.”

Simchinga who has been in the industry for the past 20 years, said he used to grow the crop by mixing with maize “but now we have started growing the crop by separating it from other crops.”

He said some government and non-governmental institutions have been visiting and providing them with good agronomic practices and hybrid seeds, something that has been encouraging them to start producing the crop for handsome income.

"The companies producing hybrid sunflower seeds have been also visiting us and giving us a good agricultural education, but there are also institutions that have been mobilizing and teaching us such as the SNV Netherlands Development Organization,” he said.

He said he has now cultivated four acres for the first time in his life and that he has been told by experts that if he adheres to the better agronomic practices he will earn good money.

Experts say that using open -pollinated varieties that do not have high oil content about 15-20 per cent oil percentage only, but the new seeds will have up to 35-42 per cent oil content that is important because now farmers will get more income.

Currently, Tanzania imports 60 per cent of cooking oils despite having vast potential of sunflower seeds, according to a Bank of Tanzania report of 2017. The national average yield is 0.6 tonnes compared with the potential yield of 2-3 tonnes per acre.

 Sunflower sub sector represents one of the key sectors of agriculture industry in Tanzania and is the most important vegetable oil with high value and on international markets.