State plans to reduce Sh120 billion imports on edible oils

Production of edible oils in the country is less than 40%

In Summary

• Kenyans consume more than 600,000 metric tons annually but production is less than 40 percent.

• Government plans to increase sunflower, canola and other oil crops production to reduce the import bill by more than 30 percent in the next five years.

Brands of cooking oil in a Nairobi retail store
HIGH DEMAND: Brands of cooking oil in a Nairobi retail store

The government is planning to promote the growing of sunflower and rapeseed (canola) to reduce the import bill for edible oils.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Kello Harsama said the country is spending Sh120 billion annually to import edible oil.

“We want to start promoting the growing of sunflower, soya and canola oil crops. This will help to reduce the huge import bill as Kenya has the capacity to produce edible oils,” he said.

Harsama said Kenyans consume more than 600,000 metric tons annually but production is less than 40 percent.

“The strategy is to ensure that Sh120 billion remains in Kenya, by us striving to produce it in the country. That is why we started promoting the planting of sunflower, canola and other oil crops in the country. We have a strategy in the next five years to reduce the import bill by more than 30 percent,” said the PS.

According to data from the Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate under the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Kenya produces only 34 percent of its edible oils and fat requirements, the deficit is imported mainly from South-East Asian countries.

The country remains a net importer of vegetable oils as local production has not grown to meet the local demand, yet many oil seeds such as sunflower, simsim, soya beans, rapeseed (canola), coconut, castor and groundnuts can be grown and processed locally.

In February this year, the government put an import duty waiver on edible oil, a move that did not go well with local manufacturers.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) said the duty waiver was against the East African Community common external tariff rules.

The EAC-CET trade regulation attracts a 35 percent import duty on imported finished goods such as edible oil. This, according to KAM, is aimed at encouraging and promoting local production.

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has been undertaking research on oil palm in the Western region.

The research was started seven years ago and over 300 oil palm trees have been planted in 10-acre pieces of land.

“The price of cooking oil, you know very well, has increased and this calls for more funding from the national government to revive this industry to enable us to produce oil that can sustain the country,” Linet Nasiroli, Kalro seed manager in charge of the Alupe production centre said.

On rice production, the PS noted that it is still low despite an increase in consumption. The annual consumption of rice in the country is one million metric tons.

“Out of the one million metric tons, farmers produce 150,000 metric tons. We import the deficit of 850,000 metric tons so that Kenyans who love rice can continue enjoying it,” he said.

To address the issue of production, Harsama said there is need for policy adjustment which will look into reducing the cost of production, increasing land under irrigation and adapting to weather problems. 

“These factors need to be looked into in order to increase rice production in the country. We are committed to ensure that we produce enough. Next year, we want to increase production by more than 30,000 metric tons by expanding irrigation schemes through the State Department of Irrigation. We are aiming to increase by a huge percentage in the next five years,” said Harsama.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star