KENYA – The Kenya Agriculture Research and Livestock Organization (KALRO) has rolled out a drive to distribute 2.5 million palm seedlings to farmers as it seeks to enhance local edible oil production.
The initiative is spearheaded by its KALRO Alupe center located in Busia country where farmers have been urged to venture into palm farming to boost their incomes.
According to KALRO, the institute has 100,000 palm seedlings planted so far ready for sale to farmers and is in the process of producing 2.5 million palm seedlings for the project.
The director of the Institute, Patrice Mudavadi, said that the type of palm seeds suits the region urging farmers to embrace the project.
“Kenya has been importing edible oils. But through this project, we hope that we can be able to be self-sufficient and even supply to the external market,” Patrice said.
A plan to reduce edible oil import dependency
Meanwhile, in an effort to reduce import dependency, the government through the Ministries of Agriculture and Trade has devised plans to stimulate production, value addition, and marketing of agricultural products, particularly edible oils.
Speaking during the official opening of the 2023 Central Kenya ASK Show in Nyeri, Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen said the country is heavily dependent on edible oil imports, and that there is a need for a robust and independent domestic production system
“The production of edible oils, in particular, has emerged as a critical focus area. By boosting the local production of edible oils, not only can the country significantly reduce its import bill, but it can also create employment opportunities and empower local farmers,” he said.
Murkomen added that the government aims to create a conducive environment for the growth and development of local industries while reducing reliance on imports.
“To address the generic issues affecting the agricultural sector, the government has identified specific value chains that have the greatest potential to turn around our economy and reduce the cost of importation of edible oils,” he said.
The announcement comes after the recent move by the government to promote the production of sunflower and rapeseed (canola) in a bid to reduce the import bill for edible oils, which has skyrocketed to Sh120 billion (US$ 875.6M) annually.
According to data from the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate under the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Kenya produces only 34 percent of its edible oils and fat requirements, the deficit is imported mainly from South-East Asian countries.
The country remains a net importer of vegetable oils as local production has not grown to meet the local demand, yet many oil seeds such as sunflower, simsim, soya beans, rapeseed (canola), coconut, castor, and groundnuts can be grown, and processed locally.