Word from the market with AMA
The sunflower crop is an important source of food. However, there is an inherent lack of appetite from local farmers to take up the crop if the
current production figures are anything to go. According to the second-round crop and livestock assessment report 2020/21 season, the estimated production is 14 000 tonnes.
The figure represents a 50-percentage increase from the prior season, thanks to good rains and increased Government input support towards the crop. If production of the crop is ramped up, the nation’s cooking oil requirement will be addressed.
When it comes to the preferred oilseeds by local farmers, sunflower seems to have found its place at the bottom. At one point sunflower production peaked to an annual figure of 60 000 tonnes. The fall has forced the oil industry and seed houses to put more energy on other alternatives such as soyabean and cotton. A small survey conducted by the Agricultural Marketing Authority to gauge availability gaps in the sunflower value chain showed that perceived lack of market for the crop and highly informalised value chain are some of the major factors affecting local production.
With the nation not producing sufficient edible oil to meet local requirements, venturing into sunflower farming presents an opportunity to increase income and livelihoods. Furthermore, farmers can realise more income by engaging in value addition. Estimates show that local industry requires 50 000-70 000 tonnes annually. Compare this with the current season yield estimate, a huge supply gap awaits.
One oil industry player, Agri- Value Chain can process 15 000t of sunflower seed annually, but is “struggling to get the commodity on the local market” adding that farmers have adequate capacity to supply sunflower needs but might not be interested.
Capacity, no interest
Local farmers can seamlessly produce enough for national consumption. Zimbabwe needs 150 million litres of cooking oil per year. However, a lack of structured market information has led to suppressed production. In addition, a highly informalised value chain has made it difficult to ascertain with accuracy who requires the commodity, at what quantities and price.
Farmers representative body ZFU says there is a need to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the whole value chain to gather and show the business case.
“Farmers have the capacity but currently the value chain is not on its feet. So, the capacity is underutilised” said ZFU in response to the survey.
Zimbabwe has ideal climatic conditions for sunflower production. The crop is good for the drier parts of the country. It has immense benefits that arise from a low input cost, short growing period, and tolerance to dry conditions.
With the bulk of this year’s output expected to come from the Midlands province, regions that receive less rainfall such as Matabeleland can help drive up local production.
One sunflower farmer in Madziwa had this to say; “I planted 1.5 hectares this past season, with no fertiliser and used just kilogramme glyphosate. The crop took 130 days to harvest. I process the seed myself and sell directly to customers and in some instances buyers for raw oil.”
From the planted hectarage, the farmer managed to harvest 800kg.
There is a consensus of the need for improved higher-yielding varieties. Seed companies have a role to play through providing the best yielding varieties with a high oil percentage. Local seed manufacturer, Mukushi Seeds says it only supplies one variety, veronica, which is preferred by local farmers. This variety has an average of 52-53 percent oil and costs $2 400 per kilogramme. Other seed houses are giving free agronomic advice as an incentive to lure local farmers into sunflower farming.
The commercial success of any agricultural enterprise is underpinned by access to finance and market information, inputs, and adherence to best practices. From the survey, the other challenge cited as hampering sunflower production has been a lack of financing. However, oil industry players submits that this can be circumvented if off-taker financier programmes are adopted to promote production. Other value chain linkages should be strengthened.
The Agricultural Marketing Authority is mobilising resources to ensure agricultural development takes place. Through its financial facilitation role, the authority raised $100 million last month to provide affordable financing to farmers in horticulture and oilseeds (cottonseed, sunflower seed, soyabean, groundnuts, and Sesame) production. This effort is meant to sustain the current momentum which has seen a significant increase in oilseeds production in the last two cropping seasons.
Sunflower production is lucrative. Currently, the average market price of sunflower is US$370 per tonne. The crop has several uses that include manufacturing of edible oil expression, livestock feed and confectionery products. Sunflower cooking oil is of greater quality as compared to oil from soya and cotton. Its market price is also higher than available alternatives.
On the production front, the international average yield stands for the crop at 1,6t/ha and with good agronomic practices, farmers can even exceed this yield in Zimbabwe. The largest producer is Russia. Argentina, European Union, China, India, Turkey, and South Africa are all significant producers of sunflower.
Word from the market is a column produced by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) to promote market driven production of agricultural crops. Feedback firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com