By VALENTINE OFORO, DODOMA

EFFORTS by the government of Tanzania to contain edible oil shortage in the country is inching towards reality following a successful move by the Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA) to produce at least 2000 tonnes of improved sunflower seed.

The development is part of strategies by the state-owned Agency to comply with directives from the government.

The country experiences an acute shortage of edible oil due to poor cultivation of the oil-based raw material crop, the situation which is arm-twisting the government to annually spending around 500bn/- to import the oil.

In June this year, Agriculture Minister Adolf Mkenda tasked ASA to embark on a strategic project for the vast production of sunflower seeds and distribute them to the farmers at patriotic prices.

Speaking in an interview, ASA’s Production Manager, Dr. Justice Ringo said the produced improved seeds are of good standards and with high oil content.

“We have started with 2000 tonnes by the vision is to keep on producing in order to supply local farmers from across the country with abundant seeds,” he stated.

Dr Ringo appreciated efforts so far made by the government in assisting the Agency to run it top activities intendedly, especially on the side of sunflower seed production.

During this fiscal year, the government increased budgetary allocation towards the Agency, from 5.52bn/- to 10.58 bn/-

According to Prof Mkenda, the government was also in a move to ensureĀ  ASA’s farms are installed with modern irrigation schemes as well as other necessary agricultural infrastructures, including modern warehouses.

“We want to see ASA make full utilisation of all of its 13 farms that scattered at different areas of the country in order to curtail tall shortage of seed varieties for key crops in the country,” he insisted.

On her side, ASA’s Chief Executive Officer, (CEO), Dr Sophia Kashenge said in a period of four consecutive years the Agency managed to improve its seed production capacity from 557 tons duringĀ  2016/17 to 1,750 tons in 2019/20, the impressive trend which enables ASA to stand fifth amid the companies that produced improved seeds during 2018/19.

“Our mission is to ensure ASA’s general production of improved seed varieties increased from currently 1,750 tons to at least 3750 tons by 2022,” Dr Kashenge unveiled.

Production of sunflower in the country is now at 290,000 tons which is an increase compared to 205,000 tons produced during last year.

Sunflowers contribute to at least 68.9 per cent of all edible oil produced in Tanzania, whereby the remaining 30.1 per cent are coming from other crops, including palm oil.

Increased human population and sunflowers processing industries, as well as economic growth, stands among the reasons that push for the increased demand for edible oil in the country.

Statistics depict that demand for seeds in Tanzania stands at 186,500 tons in a year, but the amount that is being produced is only 71,000 tons.

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