Tanzania: Move to End Cooking Oil Shortages Commendable

The woes caused by the seemingly endless shortages of cooking oil in Tanzania must be effectively surmounted soonest. We say so if only because it is very much within our capability to end the shortages – doing so by locally producing the inputs needed to manufacture the oils, and bolstering oil production itself.

Most cooking oils are produced from the vegetables and/or seeds of sunflower, safflower, palm kernels, sesame, cotton and grape seeds; from nuts, including walnuts, soybeans, groundnuts, almonds, etc, as well as olive and corn oil.

These are agricultural produce that can easily be grown in Tanzania, which has over 44 million hectares of arable land, only about 33 percent of which is under cultivation – and with some 70 percent of the working population engaged in agriculture.

It is, therefore, unthinkable that the country should still be spending scarce, hard-earned foreign currency today (some Sh474 billion annually) to import 60 percent of its cooking oil needs from the likes of Malaysia and Turkey when its relatively vast domestic production potential largely remains unexploited.

Worse still, the government continues to authorise importation of inputs to be processed domestically into cooking oil, instead of encouraging investments in local production.

There is indeed room for commandeering the value-chain in domestic cooking oil production. Ostensibly, the government – working through its Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute, and with inputs from the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute – must seriously take this up immediately.