TARI’s Director General Dr. Geoffrey Mkamilo said this during a tour of TARI agriculture researchers in Kigoma region adding that before TARI’s intervention to revamp the crop, a single imported improved commercial oil palm variety (Tenera) was sold to the farmers at 6,000/- but now the farmers are being given the improved seedlings for free.
The government through TARI’s new improved commercial oil palm variety (Tenera) roadmap embarked on research, production and dissemination of the improved seedlings in collaboration with Kigoma district councils, and has so far saved this huge amount of money. The government can now direct the saved money into other socio-economic development projects in the country.
TENERA is improved commercial oil palm variety after crossing two local seeds namely DURA and PISIFERA which are female and Male respectively. They were being imported for many years but now they are available and can be accessed through research centres, district councils, military institutions and the private sector
“I have come back to Kigoma region to assess this oil palm project being implemented in collaboration with the district councils, the private sector, the farmers and the region as a whole. So far the work is going on well and we are getting close cooperation with other stakeholders.
Dr Mkamilo said that the advantage of conducting research, and production of improved commercial oil palm variety (Tenera) in the country is that it considers the local environment and local expertise which is far better than imported seedlings which one cannot determine its quality easily.
We are intensifying the crop production to increase oil palm production to ensure we it meets and matches quality and international standards, sufficiently enough to fix edible oil shortage.
The efforts include multiplying and disseminating the improved seeds of Oil Palm at local government authorities and to the farmers in Kigoma and elsewhere. These efforts are basically trying to address the issue of importation of vegetable edible oil from Malaysia and some other countries like Costa Rica, which in recent years has cost the nation billions of shillings.
In Tanzania, palm oil is the most consumed oil due to its widespread availability and, at a relative lower-price. In 2016, Tanzania edible oil consumption was estimated to be 570,000 MT, 64 percent of it being palm oil, 30 percent sunflower oil and 2 percent cottonseed oil. In the same year, Tanzania edible oil production was estimated to be 210,000 MT, 83 percent of it being sunflower oil, 5 percent cotton seed oil and 2 percent palm oil. This indicates that about 99.3 percent of palm oil consumed in Tanzania is imported from other palm oil producing countries.
“Therefore, we cannot continue incurring a cost of 443bn/- to import 365 metric tones annually, we have potential land to produce all types of vegetable edible oil that we need in this country,” he said
Citing an example, he said Kigoma alone has an area of about 114,000 hectares of land which is suitable for Oil Palm production saying if it can be utilized well definitely the nation will be able to reduce or eliminate importation of vegetable edible oil in the country.
“The government saw this problem and that’s why the Ministry of Agriculture through TARI, the region and Military Institutions such as Kwitanga Prison and JKT Bulombola to work together and enhance multiplication and distribution of adequate seeds for the farmers,” he added.
At Kwitanga Prison, the Officer in-Charge, Senior Superintendent of Prison (SSP) Dominic Kazimil said Kwitanga Prison has a total of 8,026 out of which 6,000 acres will be planted improved TENERA oil palm of variety.
“This the government directive. I think you are all aware that we import 635,000 metric tons, which costs the nation billions of shillings. As government Military Institution, we are working together with TARI Kihinga to improve oil palm production and arrest this problem,” he said
Currently the Prison has produced 191,774 TENERA improved seedlings which are at different stages such as primary and secondary nurseries. For example there are 22,500 improved seedlings at secondary nurseries, the number which is enough to plant a total of 450.5 acres. These acres of land have already been prepared, waiting for the rain season.
“We are aiming to produce more and supply edible oil to all Prisons in the country but the main objective I to make sure that the surplus produced edible oil, contributes to fix the edible oil deficit in the country,” he said.
821KJ Bulombora Military Camp farm manager, Major Godfrey Mwakabole said that the camp has produced TENERA improved variety of seedlings which are enough to plant on a 2,000 acres of land.
“These seedlings are ready to plant. We are just waiting for the rain season to start in October. These seedlings will not be used by Bulombora Military Camp alone, but for other neighbouring villages, the district council and Kigoma region as a whole,” he said.
“The government has already issued a directive that we must collaborate with researchers from TARI to produce and disseminate thee improved seedlings. Therefore, I call on farmers in group to come and get the seedlings. We want them to plant in their farms and eventually address the problem of importing huge number of oil palm from outside,” he said.
Most farmers in Tanzania grow exclusively Dura type with low yielding potential in old farms which have been established in 1920s and have never been replanted ever since. This is one of the main caused for low oil palm yield in Tanzania
According to Kihinga Centre Director, before this improved seeds TENERA, two oil palm varieties were locally grown in Tanzania. Dura is the widely grown variety in Tanzania. The variety is characterized by thin mesocarp, thick shell and low yield potential. Dura constitutes about 90 percent of all oil palm trees grown in Tanzania. The second variety is Pisifera which is characterized by thick mesocarp and have no shell. Pisifera constitutes about less than 0.01 percent of all oil palm trees in Tanzania and are hardly found.
Dr. Filson Mbezi Kagimbo who is the National Coordinator for oil palm research in Tanzania said to boost oil palm production in Tanzania, we must increase palm oil availability. Three most important interventions are being fulfilled: The first intervention is the production of improved commercial oil palm variety (Tenera) and supply to farmers. The second intervention is to deploy all the potential area for palm oil production in Tanzania by planting Tenera variety. The third intervention is to replant the old oil palm trees existing in Tanzania with Tenera variety.