Uganda Cooking Oil Demand Outwits Local Production
Even as Uganda’s vegetable oil production registers tremendous growth demand for the product has continued to outstrip supply, forcing the country to rely on imports.
Demand for the product has continued to outstrip local supply due to unmatched growth in production resulting from a drop in cotton seeds growth - one of the main sources of the product.
From 1910 to the 1950s, cotton had been Uganda’s key export commodity thus there was enough seeds production to support vegetable oil production.
However, with the reduction in cotton growth by about 1951 there was not enough raw materials left to help in the production of vegetable oil as coffee had become the country’s primary cash crop.
Recent data indicates that Uganda’s edible oil demand stands at 120,000 metric tonnes against a production capacity of 40,000 metric tonnes leaving a deficit of 80,000 metric tonnes annually.
Out of the total production only 75 per cent (30,000 metric tones) is consumed locally whereas 25 per cent (10,000 metric tonnes) is exported neighbouring countries, including Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and parts of Tanzania.
Even as Uganda exports part of the little that it produces, data at the Ministry of Agriculture indicates the country still imports the product in huge quantities with 70 per cent coming from Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya and Tanzania.
The increasing demand for oil is attached to multiple functions used for the product. Vegetable oil is not only used for cooking, but also used for commercial baking and manufacturing detergent.
Thus the increasing demand makes supply inadequate, even as both the government and the private sector continue to shore up supply.
Efforts to diversify the raw material for cooking oil production through the use of vegetable and fats have not helped to correct the deficit. According to millers, the slow growth in production is hinged on a number of factors including poor seed quality, lack of sufficient and available varieties of raw material, high operational costs as well as uncontrolled markets.
While conducting a stakeholders meeting in Kampala recently, cooking oil manufacturers under their umbrella organisation, Uganda Oil Seed Producers and Processors Association, argued that unless the government looks into such factors mentioned above Uganda would continue to rely on imports, thus failing to grow its capacity.
However, there is hope for improved production as the Uganda Oil Seed Producers and Processors Association devises means through which it can improve on raw material varieties.
Ms Connie M. Masaba, the project manager of Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP) that is under the Ministry of Agriculture told Saturday Monitor recently that the government plans to produce four times the current quantity in the next four years.
She said: “We are steering raw material growth, which is one of the biggest challenges for the industry.” “Relying on cotton seeds alone and unproven raw materials has slowed the industry’s growth thus plans to include other raw materials including sunflower, palm trees, and ground nuts should be grounded into the system,” she adds.
Sunflower, mainly grown in Northern and Eastern Uganda has helped to shore up production even as cotton seeds continue to dwindle. Currently it is estimated that between 500,000 and 900,000 metric tonnes of the grain are harvested annually and consumed mainly by Bidco, Mukwano Industries, AK Oils and Fats, Rafiki Industries and Mount Meru among others.
By Flavia Nalubega
The Monitor Newspaper