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Tanzania’s sunflower oil producers come into bloom

With an annual output of around 350,000 tons of sunflower oilseeds, corresponding to about 90,000 tons of oil, Tanzania is one of the top ten sunflower oilseed producers in the world.

Sunflowers are grown all over the country, mostly by small-scale farmers. Therefore the development of the sunflower oil sector has a great potential for improving livelihoods and the welfare of relatively poorer households.

The Dodoma region in the country’s central zone is a major producer, accounting for over 20 per cent of national production. About half of the region’s farmers are engaged in sunflower oil production, but few small-scale producers have realized the full potential of this sector, either in terms of improved quality or higher volumes. Among the factors contributing to low productivity and quality are inadequate machinery and limited or no access to value-added services and markets.  

Since 2012, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in collaboration with Tanzania’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, has been working to upgrade and modernize the country’s agro-industry and improve the competitiveness of locally processed goods, including sunflower oil, on national and international markets.

Within the framework of the industrial upgrading and modernization project, a team consisting of UNIDO international experts and trained national consultants have provided enterprises with diagnostics services and assistance with implementing upgrading plans.

Micro- and small-scale oil producers in Dodoma were advised to form a cluster, invest in common facilities to store, clean and refine sunflower seeds, and to take joint marketing actions in order to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of their businesses. To this end, the project is currently helping relocate processors operating in residential areas to the Chamwino industrial park.

“The land in the industrial park is very expensive, so on their own the small processors cannot afford it. We are working together with UNIDO to obtain some land in the Chamwino industrial park in order to establish a cluster where a number of interrelated industries can work together,” said Ringo Iringo, Chairman of the Central Zone Sunflower Oil Processors Association.

The project has also enabled producers to access affordable technology for sunflower oil refining. Recently, UNIDO teamed up with the country’s Vocational Education Training Authority (VETA) to help small businesses acquire modern machinery for refining and processing products. This has helped increase the competitiveness of the products and lead to a rise in incomes.

Alpha Manyanga, one of the farmers who has been using the now available technology to process his sunflower oil, said that the new machinery has helped him produce more refined oil, and as a result, his customers are happier and his product now has a chance to compete on a broader market.

According to Julius Mjelwa, Acting Director of Research Market, Planning and Development at VETA, more research will help improve the machines that are being used to upgrade the sunflower oil sector.

“With the technical services provided by UNIDO, these small businesses have more capacity for production and storage, and better market access. The Dodoma Sunflower Oil cluster is a model for developing oil and other crop processing clusters for SMEs, and we are going to see this being emulated in other sectors,” said Janet Mbene, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade.

Similar approaches have been taken in enterprises operating in the dairy, as well as in other edible oil and food processing sectors. So far, UNIDO has examined 19 enterprises. To assist with the implementation of  the industrial upgrading and modernization project, UNIDO has trained a total of 50 national experts.

A recent survey suggests that companies involved in the upgrading have, on average, increased local sales by some 38 per cent. Two of them doubled the volume of their exports.

The project also helps strengthen the enterprises’ capacities to monitor and better manage business by reducing resource losses during the processing process, generating total savings worth USD 1 million over the last three years.

“This project has given us a lot. The experts showed us where we were going wrong, and by correcting mistakes we moved forward. The future looks very bright for us now,” said D.K. Mmari, CEO of a local dairy company.

 “All small producers face the same challenges, be it in the area of value addition, technology, skills, or marketing,” said Minister Mbene. “But the industrial upgrading and modernization project implemented in Tanzania demonstrated that SMEs can overcome most of their challenges if provided with technical assistance, management knowledge and business linkages.”

By ZHONG Xingfei
With special thanks to Gulnaz Azimbayeva