The government has earmarked 24 counties that are set to benefit from a sunflower promotion project that aims to boost local production of sunflower oil and address the cost of edible oils in the country.
Through the five-year edible oil promotion project, the government has pumped in one billion shillings and 570 metric tonnes of seedlings will be distributed to farmers in the selected counties by next month.
According to Dr. Dominic Menjo, Food Advisor to the president, the project aims to increase the production acreage of sunflowers from the current 4,000 acres to 200,000 acres by next year.
Dr. Menjo said the project aims to lower the high import bill of edible oils which currently stands at Sh. 160 billion annually where more than 90 percent of edible oils are imported for local use.
Menjo said that the government has earmarked five value chains to boost local production of edible oils including sunflower oil, palm oil, coconut oil, soya bean oil, and canola oil.
He said that the project seeks to increase farm production of sunflower to a million acres with the farmers set to benefit from the state subsidized fertilizer to lower production costs.
The project will be rolled out in the counties of Bungoma, Busia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Meru, Kwale, Kilifi, Homabay, Nyeri, Lamu, Kakamega, Kitui, Embu, Makueni among others.
According to data from the Agriculture and Food Authority [AFA], the country’s import bill of edible oils has been increasing at an annual rate of 15 percent occasioned by increasing demand locally.
On his part, Douglas Kangi, the Director of Crop Resources at AFA, said the government will enhance its policy interventions to ensure successful implementation by counties to boost the local production gap of edible oils.
“We consume more than 900 metric tonnes of edible oils annually from which only six percent is sourced locally and this project seeks to reverse this trend”, said Kangi.
Kangi regrettably said that Kenya is insufficient in all the food value chains making it reliant on imports with the country footing a huge food import bill of Shs. 500B annually.
Addressing county executive members in charge of the agriculture docket in Naivasha, Homabay Governor Gladys Wanga welcomed the launch of the project noting that it will lower the high cost of cooking oil for Kenyans.
She said the counties will ensure fair distribution of certified seedlings to farmers, subsidized fertilizer, provide market linkages, and enhance value addition of produce to boost farmer’s earnings.
Wanga said her county has already secured 14,000 acres under the sunflower scheme and has registered over 170,000 farmers who are set to benefit from the project.
By Erastus Gichohi