The Government of Uganda through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) has intervened to increase the production of key oil crops in the country specifically soyabeans and sunflower as a strategy to mitigate the skyrocketing prices of edible oils, cleaning products, and personal care items on both the local and international markets.
From 2021, crude palm oil prices hit record highs, along with soybean oil, sunflower oil, and other soft oils, which compete for a share in the vegetable oils market. The increase in crude palm oil prices has as well affected the prices of cleaning products especially soap and personal care products for which it is used as a raw material.
A bar of soap which was previously sold at Shs4,500 is now sold at not less than Shs7,000 at major outlets in Kampala, while a litre of cooking oil has increased from 5000 to 9,000. Increases are also seen in the cost of margarine and other edible oils whose cost has gone up by at least Shs3000.
The increment in prices is attributed to a disruption in the global supply chains of crude palm oil caused by the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic and worsened by the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
As a mitigation measure, the Government allocated Shs9 billion to NAADS Secretariat to support a strategic intervention for increasing the production of key oil crops notably sunflower and soyabean due to their high potential for vegetable oil extraction.
This intervention is being implemented in partnership with both large-scale farmers and farmer cooperatives involved in oil seed production as a measure for import substitution. Accordingly, NAADS procured and distributed soyabean seed and sunflower seed worth Shs9 billion to 22 farmer cooperatives and 48 large scale farmers in Acholi and Lango sub-regions.
While handing over the seed to large-scale farmers at Nwoya district headquarters, Dr. Christopher Bukenya, the Manager of Technical Services at NAADS said the beneficiaries from the two sub-regions received 500 tonnes of soyabean seed and 75 tonnes of sunflower seed for planting this season.
Dr. Bukenya explained that for purposes of increasing production, only largescale farmers with a minimum of 50 acres have been considered and these will be required to payback 30 percent of the cost of seed given to them.
“Unlike our previous interventions where farmers were receiving free seed, this time around government intends to recover some of the money invested in the oil seed because these are high value crops. All beneficiaries will pay back only 30 percent of the cost of the seed received after a period of 4 months,” explained Dr. Bukenya
All the beneficiaries of the oil seed signed memoranda of understanding and contracts at Nwoya and Lira district headquarters and committed themselves to paying back 30 percent of the cost of seed.
Dr. Bukenya is optimistic that this intervention will result into increased production of soyabean and sunflower for vegetable oil extraction which will ultimately reduce the prices on the local market. Soyabean is also used for animal feeds as well as several confectionery products.
Gladys Otema, a large-scale farmer in Nwoya district who received 104 tonnes of soyabean seed to be planted on 3,400 acres, said government intervention is timely due to the high demand of soyabean both in the local and the regional market.
“Every day I receive calls from both processors and traders in need of soyabean. The demand is too high that the current production cannot satisfy even the local market alone”, explained Otema
Bosco Olwit, the chairperson of Patawali Cooperative society in Adwari sub county, Otuke district appreciated government for the support, but however, warned politicians to desist from interfering in the project if it is to succeed.
Fred Doi, the regional manager of Uganda Oil seed producers and processors Association says although the boost by the government through NAADS will go a long way in increasing the production of sunflower and soyabean, there is need for government to also consider supporting the processors who are going to extract the vegetable oil.
“As processors, we also have our own challenges especially access to finance whereby loans from commercial banks are too expensive for us. We need our own bank – a farmer’s bank that will give us funds at affordable interest rates”, exclaimed Doi
The Crop development officer at NAADS Dr. Charles Aben assured the farmers of the quality of the seed they received saying it passed the germination test at a rate of 97 percent.