- The country’s vegetable oil requirement is estimated to be 600,000 tonnes, valued at more than Sh54 billion.
- Research findings show there is great potential for palm oil production and other crops that have high oil components in Busia county.
Western Kenya could save the country Sh16 billion annually in palm oil imports, a researcher has said.
Research findings show there is great potential for palm oil production and other crops that have high oil components in Busia county.
Kalro has been undertaking palm oil research in Busia. Alupe Kalro centre has more than 300 palm oil trees on 10 acres.
The programme, which was launched seven years ago to help cut the cost of cooking oil, is now facing value addition challenges.
“The price of cooking oil has gone up. This calls for funding from the national government to revive this sector, to enable us to produce oil that can sustain the country,” said Linet Nasiroli, a seed manager at Kalro Alupe.
The oil palm tree produces edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of its fruit.
Palm oil is naturally reddish in colour because of high beta-carotene content.
The oil is used in the production of almost half of all products sold in supermarkets globally.
“It is an essential ingredient for several cuisines and is also used in household goods like soap. Many families rely on farming oil palm trees for their income,” Nasiroli said.
The ecological requirements for oil palm farming include an attitude of 500-600 metres above sea level and 1800-3500 mm of rainfall annually.
The trees thrive in sandy loam, young volcanic, alluvial clays, peat soils with good water holding capacity and tolerate acidic soils with pH of up to 4.0.
Nasiroli said the major challenge is processing machines for value addition.
"We urge the government to invest in value addition to enable Busia to produce oil to feed the country," she said.
“Another challenge the organisation faces is security for the plants. Based on its geographical location at the border, there has been a tendency of theft cases since the farm is on an open field.”
Trials have shown that the region has the best conditions for the tropical plant.
With oil palm farming gaining pace, institutions aware of the huge potential of palm oil have invested in ensuring farmers now start processing the oil.
“We urge farmers to try palm oil, sesame, sunflower, groundnuts and soya beans on a large scale, to subsidise the sugarcane they have been growing for many years,” Nasiroli said.
Kenya produces only 34 per cent of its edible oils and fat requirements. As such the country remains a net importer of vegetable oils.
The country’s vegetable oil requirement is estimated to be 600,000 tonnes, valued at more than Sh54 billion.
(Edited by Bilha Makokha)