Mr Hu Xiao Long is seen admiring products of the Sunshine Industrial Co.Ltd. (Photo: By Our Photographer)

By VALENTINE OFORO, DODOMA

WHILE statistics depicts that Tanzania is annually spending at least $120million to import edible oil,  on the other hand,  the grim revelation is how local cooking oil manufacturers are failing to meet their production targets due to poor supply of raw materials.

The Dodoma -based Sunshine Industrial Co. Ltd, producers of the much-loved cooking oil brand in the market ‘Sunbelt’  (100 Percent Pure Sunflower Oil) is haplessly failing to meet its production aspirations due to inadequate supply of sunflower grains from the indigenous farmers.

Situated some 15km from Dodoma City,  in Zuzu area,  the USD 10million worth plant is struggling to meet its target of producing at least 7000 tons of oil per year.

“When we established this modern factory in 2015 the focus was to start by producing at least 7000 tons in a year,  but due to poor supply of raw materials we are being armed -twisted to produce only 2,500 tons, which is far behind our focus, “said the factory’s Quality Assurance Manager, Ms Upendo Mganga.

Mr Hu Xiao long monitors workers at the factory to pack cartons of the Sunbelt Edible oil produced at the factory in readiness to be transported to various markets.  (Photo: By Our Photographer)

She expressed that the factory was demanding between 7000 and 10,000 tons of sunflower grains in order to meet its set production target, saying, on the contrary, the plant was only managing to collect less than 2000 tons from farmers.

” For instance, during last year the factory didn’t produce at all due to absence of sunflower grains, the situation which was partly caused by the outbreak of Covid- 19 pandemic,” she said.

She informed that the modern factory has been striving to collect sunflower from farmers in Singida, Manyara, Tabora and Dodoma, but the tonnage being collected was not sufficient to enable it to meet the set production target,” she added.

Mganga unveiled that the factory was kept on receiving orders to supply oil in many destinations but they are failing to cater for such lucrative market demands due to challenges in obtaining needed sunflower grains.

“Demand for edible oil is very high but we’re failing to service for the impressive market because we are often receiving from the farmers’ sunflower grains with poor oil content,”

She added, recommended the sunflower grains are supposed to possess oil content between 38 and 44 percent,  but most indigenous farmers are producing the grains with 34 percent of oil content.

” Some of the farmers are recycling seeds and thus, producing grains with poor oil content,” she added.

To that end, she said the factory’s production expenditure was high in comparison to the profits being collected from sales of manufactured products.

Divulging other challenges, she said the factory was also receiving from the farmers’ sunflower grains with high water content as well as contamination of unwanted solid materials.

However, in further efforts to overcome the challenge of shortage of sunflower, Mganga revealed that plans are afoot for the factory to embark on large plantations of sunflower with an eye to quench its sunflower grains demand thirst.

“Apart from that,” she added, “There is a need for the government to partner with oil processors in the country to empower the farmers to adopt best agronomic practices and improved seed in order to produce grain with good oil content,”

On his side, Mr Hu Xiao Long, a senior officer at the factory, said that contrary to many like-minded industries in the country,  they have installed high-tech modern machines with a capacity to refine oil at least six times.

“These machines are worth USD2.5m and they use electricity and air. They were specifically designed in accord with the nature of Tanzania’s sunflower. So you can see how much we incur a huge loss by failing to meet intended production targets, ”  he insisted.

He underscored the need for relevant authorities to see how best to come up with effective strategies to maximize the cultivation of sunflower among farmers from across the country in order to allow local producers to meet their manufacturing targets and thus, stand a chance to provide for home and away from markets.

“It doesn’t mean our products are of poor quality compared to those from other countries, the chief problem is lack of raw materials, in fact,  Tanzania’s sunflower is genuine and super with no any forms of chemicals, ” he assured.

He said the factory was purchasing sunflower from farmers at a price of between 670/- and 700/-  per kg although at an unimpressive rate.

“We are using agents to purchase sunflower from farmers but unfortunately, some of the agents are not faithful as they are scaling -up the prices in order to benefit themselves, ” he unveiled.

He said the factory’s production season begins in June to September (Sunflower harvesting season) but decried that impromptu power cut was, however, frustrating their production,  leading to great loss.

“It’s frustrating, the frequently and impromptu power cut is seriously damaging our production flow.  When this happens the system stopped,  and when the power is back we are forced to re-start production afresh which is very expensive,” he detailed.

Mr Xiao said the factory’s monthly electricity bill stands at 90million/- due to types of the heavy machines installed.

But amid such all tall challenges, Mr Xiao bragged on how they have managed to secure vast markets in several destinations in surpass to other counterparts.

“It’s just a few years now since we commenced but our market scope is far away from many others,  and this is due to the good quality of our products. Contrary to many other products,  our items include Vital A and E,  but also,  the test and smile of our oil is good,” he appreciated.

He said the plant have managed to provide direct employment for at least 23 locals, however saying during production season the plant absorb more than 250 local staff indirectly, added that, in terms of Cooperate Social Responsibility (CSR),  the factory is at the forefront in assisting the nearby community.

“We’re also appealing to the government to reduce taxes towards our side, for instance, we’re being taxed on 12 -mouths basis, but the factory is only active in a few months within a year,” he appealed.

Moreover, he said the factory was considered to enter into farming contracts with sunflower growers.

“The plan is to provide them (farmers) with improved seed as well as other crucial in-puts in order to stand good chance to produce and supply to us quality grains with good oil content,” he informed, added that if the plan will see the light of the day, the farmers will be paying for the services through a patriotic system.

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