Surge in demand for locally produced sunflower oil
Shadikongoro Irrigation Project and the Agricultural Business Development Agency (AgriBusDev) are certain that in the next four weeks they will be pouring sunflower oil into the Namibian market in barrels.
The full-scale commercial plant is virtually completed and production is expected to commence very soon, processing oil from the seed in their stocks.The Shadikongoro Irrigation Scheme first started with a small plant and has been operating the mini-plant on a pilot basis since 2009.
The idea was to supply the unit with raw sunflower produced from its own fields and purchase additional requirements from small and large growers in the immediate area of Berg Aukas, from the National Youth Service Scheme and other interested growers.
At commencement, the project took off well and had also received a barcode to sell its cooking oil brand locally, following months of hawking the much sought-after product at street markets in Rundu.
Unfortunately, during 2011 the Shadikongoro Irrigation Scheme could not keep up with the demand for sunflower cooking oil. At the time, the project manager Floris Smith said the demand for sunflower oil was “very high, and actually exceeds supply”.
It was the visit by former president Hifikepunye Pohamba to Shadikongoro Green Scheme Project in 2014 that led to a higher-level consultation to consider up-scaling sunflower oil production.
The meeting included the top leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and ended with a collective decision to upgrade the processing plant. Subsequently, government availed funds and the upgrading work to establish a plant to a capacity to process 3 000 metric tonnes of sunflower oil per year commenced in 2015.
According to AgriBusDev managing director Petrus Uugwanga, the upgrading work is 99 percent complete and production could be commissioned by the end of October. They expect to start processing the seeds from their existing stock before the end of the year.
Uugwanga said it cost about N$10 million for the upgrading of the building and procurement of the machines. He called on local farmers to grow sunflower to keep the oil processing plant in the Kavango East running, recollecting that previously the growing demand for sunflower oil far outstripped what their small processing plant could supply.
AgriBusDev would pay market-related prices for the sunflower supplied.
Asked if the plant only supplies the domestic market or whether it would also be geared for exports, Uugwanga said their focus would be on the domestic market for the next five years. Nevertheless, the shift to export would be considered as they upscale the local production and processing capacity.
“After all has been said, we shall not close down any clients, be it local or export,” he remarked.
Good news for farmers in the area is that the by-product of processed sunflower seed is a sunflower cake that is used as animal feed.
Asked whether farmers, who currently supply AgriBusDev, will be able to meet the required demand of the processing plant or would AgriBusDev also source raw materials from outside the country, Uugwanga said at present they are inviting domestic farmers to produce as much as they can and should there be a shortfall then they would be compelled to import.
“At present, AgriBusDev is running an awareness campaign by directly engaging with the farmers and providing technical information. The Agronomy Department shall on this basis continue to give further training on the art of growing sunflower,” said Uugwanga.
The other benefit, Uugwanga says, is that the production of sunflower is sustainable in Namibia, especially that we are faced with the persistent drought.
“Sunflower is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, which could diversify the risk between maize and mahangu (millet),” he said adding that there is an unlimited need and opportunity for farmers to plant sunflower, since not much sunflower is currently grown in Namibia.
Uugwanga also said growing sunflower would benefit farmers, as it can be used as a rotation crop with maize, millet and sorghum.
Origin of Shadikongoro Irrigation Scheme
Namibia’s quest to ensure food security has seen the country rolling out numerous green schemes, particularly in the Kavango West and East and Zambezi regions, where government plans to empower its people and to promote self-reliance among rural communities.
One such scheme is the Shadikongoro Irrigation Scheme situated some 180 kilometres east of Rundu in the Mukwe Constituency of the Kavango East Region, where the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry in 2010 built a sunflower oil production unit on its farm premises.
The scheme was established in line with government’s commitment towards the sustainable utilisation of the country’s natural resources to benefit the citizens and to put 30 000 hectares of land under food production by 2030, as part of government’s long-term plan to fulfil food security.