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Sunflower growers unable to access government-promised seeds

The government’s stalled sunflower seed distribution program has left farmers frustrated as the long rains fall.

When Dorcas Malika was registerd for the government’s sunflower promotion project in December of last year, the Bura based farmer expected to have already sown her crop ahead March-May long rains.

“Among our farmer cooperative, less than ten per cent of farmers have received a message from National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). This is despite us all having registered,” she said.

As part of it’s five-year edible oil promotion project, the government last year purchased 570 metric tonnes of sunflower seeds from Zambia to be distributed to farmers in 24 counties. 

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It targeted a 50-fold increase in sunflower acreage by the end of the year to 200,000 acres from the current 4,000 acres.

Farmers who have accessed NCPB depots have been advised to register for the program but most have yet to receive any feedback.

“Ideally, sunflower seeds should be used in less than two growing seasons or one two to years. The appetite amongst farmers to help alleviate the country’s current total reliance on imported edible oils is there. All we’d hoped for is that the government had established proper distribution chains ahead of the long rains season,” said Salim Godana– head of a sunflower growing group in Bura Irrigation Scheme.

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Hitches in getting these seeds to farmers he said would scuttle the government’s efforts at getting the country to be self sufficient in edible oil production.

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

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