THE government through the Ministry of Agriculture plans to increase the production of edible oil from different oil seed crops, particularly sunflower and palm oil to meet the current edible oil demand in the next five years.
The demand for edible oil in Tanzania stands at 570,000 metric tonnes per year, while production stands at 205,000 metric tonnes.
The deficit which is about 64 per cent is filled by import, which costs the country huge amount of forex.
Speaking at Nanenane exhibitions at Nyakabindi grounds in Simiyu region, TARI Ilonga Centre Director, Dr Joel Meliyo said in order to achieve the goal, the government through the Ministry of Agriculture has long and short term plans to ensure adequate edible is produced in the country.
The short term plan is centred on improving sunflower production up to 2 metric tonnes of grain that can be used to extract over 700,000 metric tonnes of edible oil.
TARI Ilonga Centre is required to develop improved sunflower seed with high oil content and resistant to environmental shocks and make available for multiplication by different stakeholders in order to be available to all sunflower growers in 19 regions of the country.
"Not only have we planned to produce the improved varieties, but also to develop many good agronomic practices that enable the improved seed attain increased productivity and production per unit area. We want to achieve the government goal of cutting off importation of edible oil," Dr Meliyo explained.
He added that TARI Ilonga has started to develop improved sunflower seed varieties using local and imported germplasm, saying the main aim is to ensure that the five year government target of reducing edible oil imports come to an end.
"First we want to create awareness to farmers, to produce many improved seed varieties and link farmers to markets within and outside the country. We also need to create awareness on the impact of climate change, pests and diseases, since sunflower is less affected by these challenges," Dr Meliyo noted.
He said the centre in collaboration with other TARI centres is focused in producing 2 metric tonnes of 'breeders’ seeds' which will be used to produce 4500 metric tonnes of 'certified Seed' that will be planted in 1.5 million hectares, in 19 regions and cultivated by over 1 million farmers.
Dr Meliyo said that TARI Ilonga has a national mandate to undertake research on various crops, including maize, millet, sunflower, sorghum and many others, saying the centre also deals with post harvested technology.
The Director General of TARI, Dr Geoffrey Mkamilo said this year NaneNane exhibition focuses on providing knowledge to farmers on various technologies produced by TARI centres across Tanzania.
According to him, TARI is mandated to research, produce and disseminate agricultural technologies to farmers across Tanzania.
"We plan to increase production of sunflower crop in order to increase sunflower oil since the government spends a huge sum of money to import cooking oil from abroad.
However, we continue to develop our sunflower varieties to meet the target of self-sufficient for edible oil," Dr Mkamillo said.