COOKING oil manufacturers have thrown their weight behind the command soya bean production scheme and are seeking land and partnerships to ensure the country has enough raw materials.
The Government has resolved to extend command agriculture to cover the growing of soya bean and livestock farming following its successful rollout on grain and cotton.
Due to unavailability of the product at home, oil expressers in Zimbabwe rely on semi-processed crude oil imports, which drain an average of $10 million per month from the economy.
United Refineries Limited chief executive officer, Mr Busisa Moyo, who is also Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, said oil expressers were ready to partner farmers in soya bean production.
“We need a lot of soya beans. We want the land to produce the crop and we are also ready to partner others in producing it,” he said.
“I think the command agriculture scheme is good and what is encouraging is that it involves the private sector. We are already supporting the production of raw materials which will help boost the economy,” he said.
The cooking oil industry is one of the thriving sub-sectors having recorded improvement following a move by the Government to restrict cooking imports in the past three years.
Estimates indicate locally manufactured cooking oil products were now occupying about 95 percent of local supermarket shelf space, a massive jump from about 15 percent in 2014, with some foreign producers setting up shop locally.
Players in the sector have, however, bemoaned delays in securing raw material, especially on the back of foreign exchange shortages and depletion of nostro-reserves.
Local manufacturers have capacity to produce an average of 20 million litres of cooking oil per month, which is almost double the national requirement.
Government has supported local producers by introducing punitive duty on cooking oil imports.
In 2014 before the introduction of duty, 85 percent of shelf space in Zimbabwean shops was taken by imports.
The price for the commodity gradually came down from around $4,20 for a two-litre bottle to between $2,90 and $3,50. In the past, South African cooking oil brands dominated the market. Besides soya bean, cotton seed is also a raw material for cooking oil manufacturing.
To avoid cooking oil shortages on the market, Government has since placed crude oils (soya bean, sunflower and rapeseed) on the critical list of import requirements. Local manufacturers then value add the crude oil to produce cooking oil.