The Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) says it has embarked on a project aimed at expanding coconut production to plug the gap of 365,000 metric tonnes of cooking oil that is annually filled by imports.
Annual demand for cooking oil stands at 570,000 metric tones, with local production capacity around 352,908 metric tonnes, thus traders procure the deficit elsewhere.
Speaking at the ongoing Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF), the TARI Mikocheni Centre manager, Dr Zuberi Bira said Tanzania currently has an estimated 25m coconut trees, in which case TARI plans to increase quality coconut seedlings from 2,000 annually at present to 10m for distribution to various areas in the country.
Dr Bira said the production of coconut seedlings aims to attain goals of the industrial economy by 2025 so that coconuts cover the country’s edible oil shortage.
In order to expand coconut palm acreage countrywide, TARI has lined up four types of coconut tree seeds that can withstand pests, diseases and climate change, all from the East African Tall variety, namely EAT Vuo, EAT Mwambani, EAT Lbs and EAT Buza, with farmers in the country still using traditional seeds.
With the new quality seeds produced by TARI and distributed to farmers in various areas of the country, farmers can increase the country’s edible oil production and thus help to cut the need for imports.
Seedlings zre already being distributed to farmers in Coast, Morogoro, Rukwa and Mwanza regions, he said.
For his part, TARI Director General Geoffrey Mkamilo said their strategy at present is that oil bearing crops including oil palm cultivated in Kigoma Region and sunflower in central regions of Dodoma, Singida and Simiyu be expanded to contribute to increasing edible oil production.
Hussein Bashe, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, told the National Assembly in May that in the new financial year 2021/2022, the government will inject 10.6bn/- into production of improved seeds, including oil seeds by improving and expanding infrastructure of the Agricultural Seeds Agency (ASA).
The private sector needs to venture into cultivation of edible oil-producing crops and processing to end the perennial shortage and on importation of the essential product, he stressed.