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Kenya recruiting new army of sunflower farmers

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Launched on September 2023, the sunflower promotion project has purchased 570 metric tonnes of sunflower seeds from Zambia to be distributed to farmers in 24 counties. It also targets a 50-fold increase in sunflower acreage by the end of this year to 200,000 acres from the current 4,000 acres.

These free and subsidised sunflower seeds are being distributed to registered farmers through National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depots.

Through its certified sunflower seed distribution drive, the national government predicts a 50 per cent reduction of Kenya’s edible oils import bill from the current Sh160 billion to Sh80 billion.

Speaking during a meeting on the promotion of edible oil crops value chains on Monday, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi said that Kenyan households dedicate about one-third of their food bill to the purchase of edible oils.

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“Crude and finished edible oils make up Kenya’s second biggest import bill. The country can however achieve self-sufficiency and import substitution through increased production of oil crops such as sunflower, canola, soya bean, and coconut,” he added.

The ongoing seed distribution programme began ahead of the November to December short rains and targets registered farmers in regions where sunflower is typically grown. These are Bungoma, Busia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Meru, Kwale, Kilifi, Homabay, Nyeri, Lamu, Kakamega, Kitui, Embu, Taita Taveta, Makueni, Mombasa, Tana River, and Trans Nzoia counties, among others.

According to former State Department for Crop Development PS Kello Harsama, the project eventually aims to provide 720 metric tonnes of subsidised and free sunflower seeds and can also be accessed by farmers through the e-voucher input subsidy service.

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“Some of these seeds will be used up by farmers for oil production while some will be used for seed production so that next year and subsequent years we won’t have to procure seeds through import,” said Douglas Kangi, Director of Crop Resources, Agribusiness and Market Development (MoALF).

Kenya currently consumes 900 metric tonnes of edible oil and only six per cent of this is produced locally. “If we can get one million acres under sunflower production we will be able to produce all the cooking oil within our borders,” informed Kangi.

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