Cooking oil shortages loom

HARARE - A big drop in soya bean plantings in Zimbabwe could lead to a shortage of cooking oil and stock feeds on the domestic market this year.

Nationally, the industry is expected to meet a national need of 200 000 tonnes this season but farmers have dumped the crop due to lack of financing.

Financial research firm Equity Axis warned cooking supplies could be tight given bottlenecks in accessing forex to import crude oil.

“Soya bean shortage is looming in Zimbabwe this season . . . , a move which will have negative implications on the production of cooking oil and stock feeds,” the research firm warned.

“The current demand for soya bean in Zimbabwe far outstrip supply, opening opportunities for farmers and other suppliers to plug in the disparities. The country needs about 220 000t of soya bean annually for food, feed and other industrial needs.”

At present, Zimbabwean cooking oil companies rely on importing soya bean and semi-processed crude oil for further processing as these are not available locally.

In 2016, Zimbabwe imported crude soya bean oil worth $119,9m and more is expected to be imported this year due to low production.

But, according to the Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe, the plunge in cooking oil industry capacity utilisation is largely due to failure to secure adequate foreign currency from the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe to import raw materials.

Industrialists said the lasting solution lies in increased domestic agriculture output.

Zimbabwe is grappling with a worsening liquidity crisis, which experts have repeatedly blamed on low domestic production and the attendant trade deficit.

Official statistics indicate that the country is battling an unsustainable annual trade deficit of about $3 billion of which agriculture imports are a major component.

Immediate past president of Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and United Refineries Limited chief executive officer Busisa Moyo has said the long-term solution to revitalising the local oil expressers and other agro-processing firms lies in promoting extensive outgrower schemes for inputs countrywide.

“In the long-term, we need to get our agriculture up so that we improve production of oil seeds such as soya. As an industry, we are looking for land of about 100 000 hectares to utilise under soya farming so that we boost supply of the raw material,” Moyo said.

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