Africa Moyo Senior Business Reporter
Soya bean hactarage has been increased by 11 000 hectares in the 2018 /2019 cropping season from the almost 22 000ha planted in the prior season, as Government battles to stem surging demand for foreign currency. Government is spending an average of $20 million per month in the importation of soya for the manufacture of cooking oil, prompting the need to ramp up local soya bean growing to preserve the little foreign currency available.
Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Justin Mupamhanga, who is chairman of the Command Agriculture programme, told Business Weekly on Wednesday that 33 000ha of land have been put under soya in this cropping season.
“We have contracted 33 000ha of soya this season and 200 000ha of maize, which is slightly above what we contracted last year,” said Mr Mupamhanga. In the last cropping season, soya bean was planted on 21 743ha and as at August 28, deliveries were over 39 000 tonnes.
Soya bean is a critical crop with multiple benefits that cut across various sectors of the economy.
The crop is used as a source of protein for livestock feeds and can also be used in the manufacture of cooking oil, soya chunks, margarine, soap, breakfast cereals and milk, among others.
It is rich regards crude protein, ranging between 35 percent and 45 percent, and contains 20 percent oil.
Zimbabwe needs almost about 250 000 tonnes of soya bean annually for food, feed and other industrial needs but output is currently averaging 30 000 tonnes, which is far too short of requirements.
The average cost per ha ranges from $700 to $900.
Experts say farmers can get between 3,5 tonnes and 6 tonnes per hectare.
The current price per tonne is $550. Farmers can rake up to $1 100 per hectare.
But despite the lucrative benefits for farmers, low production has seen crude soya bean imports chewing $120 million in 2016 while by October last year, $72 million had been used to import the product.
Since mid this year, crude soya bean imports have been gobbling about $20 million per month.
As demand for foreign currency continues to outstrip supply, cooking manufacturers are now moving into soya bean farming.
The move is designed to ensure uninterrupted supply of the product, which, in turn, will guarantee availability of cooking oil.
At the moment, Zimbabwe is battling fuel shortages, prompting Government to temporarily suspend Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, now upgraded to SI 122 of 2017, to allow companies and citizens with free funds to import the commodity.
Pure Oil Industries, one of the country’s top cooking oil manufactures, says it has ploughed $9 million into supporting soya bean contract farmers. The company’s head of operations Rodreck Musiyiwa says they begun contracting soya bean farmers in the last three years.
This comes amid acute shortage of cooking oil in the country due to limited availability of foreign currency required to import the major ingredient for production of edible oils; crude oil.
Before the supply hiccups that begun a few weeks ago, Pure Oil was about 350 tonnes of cooking oil to the local market daily.