Lack of oil palm processing industries in Kigoma

07Jan 2020
Gerald Kitabu
The Guardian
Lack of oil palm processing industries in Kigoma

When the Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa ordered revamping the oil palm production in Kigoma region almost two years ago, it was expected that different stakeholders including the private sector would seriously put up similar efforts to start planning to venture into oil palm process factories and-

-other large industries with better technologies.

If the private sector and other stakeholders would have invested in large oil palm processing industries, the investment would have several impacts and benefits, some being to increase the value of the crop, increase income of Kigoma residents, revenues and spur the nation’s economy.

Unfortunately, this is not happening. There are little efforts by the private sector to establish large oil palm processing industries with latest technologies. What is happening now is that some people, individually, such as retired government officials have made efforts to establish local machines. But the local machines being established are purchased from local designers. They have poor technology as most of them use rudimentary means to process the oil palm into edible oil or soap. In fact the available local machines such as Burundi expellers are locally made with little regard to efficiency.

In an interview with one of the local machines owners who resides in Mahembe Mwalimu Kafumba Juma said that many people who owns the machines have little capacity to invest in big Oil palm industries. He cited several other challenges such as lack of reliable power supply especially in the remote areas. However, he defended the local machines saying although inefficient but for the time being they serve purpose and helps the local farmers to process their oil palm.   

“I have another challenge of lack of power, I use fuel to run the machine instead of electricity. I also have no reliable transport,” he said.

At small industries development Organisation (SIDO) offices located at the outskirt of Kigoma town things are more or less the same. Technicians are designing the machines but they are not effective enough and lack latest technology. The Objective of SIDO is to develop the small industry sector in Tanzania.

One of the local machines designer at SIDO Shabani Mashauri said that the machines can be improved if there will enough investments.

“I learnt this technology of designing these local machines at SIDO. The machines are very strong but need more investment to be advanced. There is need for other stakeholders to come in and invest in advanced machines with better technology,” he said.

Since the Prime Minister’s directed was issued, Kigoma region and the farmers in particular have seen several government interventions to ensure availability of better seeds. For example, in this year alone, the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) under leadership of Dr. Geofrey Mkamilo has visited and supplied 50,000 improved seeds of oil palm variety coded TENERA to Kwitanga Prison in Kigoma for multiplication and distribution to the farmers. Adding to 277,335 seeds which have been supplied previously, TARI has cumulatively supplied a total of 327,335 seeds to Kwitanga Prison.

TENERA is improved seeds of oil palm variety being new variety after crossing two local varieties namely DURA and PISIFERA which are female and male respectively.

Dr Mkamilo said that the efforts of multiplying and disseminating the improved seeds of Oil Palm at local government authorities and to farmers in Kigoma would go on.

Also TARI-Kihinga Centre Director and National Coordinator for oil palm research in Tanzania, Dr Filson Mbezi Kagimbo said his centre is working round the clock to ensure availability of better seeds for the farmers.

Explain further he said currently there are three oil palm varieties grown in Tanzania. Dura is the widely grown variety in Tanzania. The variety is characterized by thin mesocarp, thick shell and low yield potential. Dura constitutes about 90 percent of all oil palm trees grown in Tanzania. The second variety is Tenera, characterized by thick mesocarp, thin shell and high yielding potential. Tenera constitutes about 10 percent of all oil palm trees grown in Tanzania.  The third variety is Pisifera which is characterized by thick mesocarp and have no shell. Pisifera constitutes about less than 0.01 percent of all oil palm trees in Tanzania and are hardly found. Dr. Kagimbo said that the motive of TARI Kihinga is to produce more TENERA seeds which is the only improved oil palm variety so as to raise its production percept in Tanzania. Tenera variety is also considered as an improved commercial variety by large oil palm producing countries.

He said to boost oil palm production in Tanzania for increasing palm oil availability, among others, three most important interventions are being  fulfilled: The first intervention is the production of improved commercial oil palm variety (Tenera) and supply to farmers. The second intervention is to deploy all the potential area for palm oil production in Tanzania by planting Tenera variety. The third intervention is to replant the old oil palm trees existing in Tanzania with Tenera variety. TARI Kihinga has a priority to produce improved oil palm variety (Tenera) and supply to oil palm growers at the same time sensitizing oil palm growers on the importance of replanting their old oil palm trees with Tenera variety. Given the availability of improved oil palm variety, Tanzania has a potential to be a big producer of palm oil because there is ample land suitable for oil palm production. For instance, in Kigoma region 114,000 ha are suitable for oil palm production but only 23,000 ha are planted.

In Tanzania, palm oil is the most consumed oil due to its widespread availability and, at a relative lower-price. In 2016, Tanzania edible oil consumption was estimated to be 570,000 MT, 64 percent of it being palm oil, 30 percent sunflower oil and 2 percent cottonseed oil. In the same year, Tanzania edible oil production was estimated to be 210,000 MT, 83 percept of it being sunflower oil, 5 percent cotton seed oil and 2 percent palm oil. This indicates that about 99.3 percent of palm oil consumed in Tanzania is imported from other palm oil producing countries. Tanzania spends about 432 billion shillings per year to import edible oil from foreign countries. Such expenditure stands as one of the stumbling block for the economic growth of the country.