TARI Ilonga is towards modernisation of sunflower breeding which is associated with utilisation of modern methods of seed development. Our Reporter GERALD KITABU interviewed TARI Ilonga Centre Director, Dr JOEL MELIYO on the available plans and strategies to ensure breeding and delivery of new sunflower varieties which high yield potential and availability of the edible oil from sunflower
QUESTION: What is the current situation of edible oil in the country?
ANSWER: It is important to put in perspective the fact that the total country`s annual demand of edible oil stands at 570,000 MT. The local production is only 40 percent of the demand and the deficit is covered by importing using TZS 675 billion.
This suggests that the country is using a significant amount of money to import the product that can be produced locally.
The total edible oil produced locally, about 80 percent comes from sunflower whereas the remaining 20 percent comes palm (1 percent), whereas groundnuts, sesame, soya beans and cotton contribute 19 percent.
Sunflower is most preferred due to its resilience to drought, it is less vulnerable to pests and diseases and it’s comparatively cheaper to cultivate than other oilseeds crops. However, all oil-producing crops’ productivity are very low with yield of less than 1 t/ha and its value chain have not been adequately exploited.
Critical constraints zero in to use none-improved seeds, poor agronomic practices and the disorganized local markets. It should be known that there are sunflower oil industries which consumes the produced raw materials in just three and then remain dormant for 9 months of the year. Sesame and ground have no industries for edible oil but exported or used for other products.
Oil palm trees are old and yield very low and availability of improved planting materials is inadequate. However, shortage of edible oil in the country provide a huge opportunity for oil crop production.
The greater and good opportunity in Tanzania is that oilseeds are produced in all regions in diverse ecologies from the lowland to highlands and from high rainfall to low rainfall areas, and the government has come is strategy to increase local oil production in order to narrow the gap between local demand and supply.
Demand is expected to be increasing to over 700,000 MT by 2030 being driven by population growth, increasing disposable income, and growing class of population that consume sunflower oil because of its associated health benefits.
In addition, the population of Tanzania is expected to increase to 75.5 and 137 million by the year 2030 and 2050 respectively, which will result a commensurate increase in the demand and consumption of edible oils. This is anticipated to provide a market opportunity for the domestic oil crops producers.
Q: If that is the case, what is the contribution of TARI to address this situation?
A: TARI has been putting efforts to boosting edible oil production in the country through its research centres obliged to releasing improved seeds for all oil crops including sunflower, oil palm, sesame and groundnuts. However, priority oil crops have been given to sunflower and oil palm at TARI centres’ of Ilonga and Kihinga respectively.
TARI Ilonga has started cleaning and mass production of the sunflower variety ”Record”. First priority is given to sunflower which is taking over 85 percent of locally produced edible oil in Tanzania. The variety is produced through different classes of seeds including pre basic, basic and certified seeds.
Additionally, TARI seeks to increase sunflower production through adoption of different technologies together with encouraging farmers to practice timely field operations and use of a full package of good agronomic practices (GAP) that include: seedbed preparation, proper sawing with proper spacing, use of appropriate rates and right fertilizers, timely weeding and management of pests and diseases. Seed multiplication and distribution is done by TARI, ASA, seed companies, agro dealers and registered farmers who do produce the quality declared seeds (QDS.
TARI apart from seed improvement it has also started to address sunflower seed demand for edible oil by increase seed production under different classes, for instance, 83 acres of seed multiplication in 2018/2019 comparing to 2 acres in 2017/2018.
TARI is soon introducing soil preservation measures and usage of high-quality seed along with the provision of latest technologies to increase productivity.
Q: What are the plans and strategies?
A: TARI Ilonga Centre has a national mandate to coordinate sunflower research. The Centre has the plan in place for accelerating breeding and delivery of new sunflower varieties which high yield potential.
TARI Ilonga is towards modernization of sunflower breeding which is associated with utilization of modern methods of seed development such as heterosis in the production of superior varieties.
The Centre has already developed the strategic breeding programme for sunflower which intends to keep sunflower sector in Tanzania on track overtime and which allows to respond to changes while remaining faithful to sustainable edible oil production.
The purpose of this strategic plan is to ensure sunflower breeding program in developing and delivering high quality seeds which are resilient in demand by smallholder farmers and processors in various geographic regions of Tanzania.
The intention of this strategy is to accelerate the development, delivery and scaling of use of improved seeds that meet the productivity and income needs of both farmers and processors and provide resilient adaptation to climate change.
The strategy will release the varieties which are most promising to adapt to various agro ecological zones of the country. Upon implementation of these plans, which are relevant to the national context of boosting edible oil production, the plans will support the country to increase production, add value, bridge imports and diversify sunflower export markets.
To implement these plans successfully and sustainably, a concerted effort and a strong support in terms of resources allocation is definitely needed.
Therefore, this strategy is calling different stakeholders to join hands so as to implement both short- and long-term plans to increase and sustain edible oil production starting with the sunflower seed production at the Institute and in the country.
Q: Are there any challenges?
A: Yes. Low productivity and poor-quality seeds, inadequate facilities (irrigation, storage, post-harvest handling and proper packaging) and low efficiency of processing machines are all challenges that need to be addressed in order to make a sector be competitive.
An almost inadequacy of modern packaging material reduces shelf life, which adds the difficulty of marketing oil from local processors who now have to compete with well packed cheap imports.
Given the number of challenges that hamper the development of edible oil sector, TARI has designed some plans to enhance performance of the entire value chain, including production, processing and marketing.
Q: As an expert what is your recommendation?
A: The situation calls for cultivation of sunflower crop, because the crop has a wider adaptability to wide ranging agro-climatic condition; suitability for cultivation in all seasons due to its day neutral nature; it can fit into cropping systems due to short duration; remunerative market price due to high quality oil; low seed rate (2-3 kg/acre) and high seed multiplication ratio of 1:80. Quality seed with associated agronomic package is essential for high yield per unit area.
It is possible to enhance production by 20 to 30 percent by training farmers on using seed which is healthy, viable, free of pests and diseases and by 70 to 80 percent through providing practical skills on good agronomic practices, proper post-harvest handling and efficient processing techniques.
The edible oil stakeholders should support some resources to centers involved in sunflower seed production research to make seed available to farmers.
Significant increase in edible oil production can be possible through cultivation of sunflower across the country.
In addition, oil palm cultivation in Kigoma and some other parts of the country is the most sustainable avenue towards edible oil production.