TARI-Kihinga set to produce 5,000,000 oil palm seeds

THE Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) at its Kigoma-based Kihinga centre is set to annually produce at least 5,000,000 seeds of palm oil in a concerted effort to spur cultivation of the key cash crop.
To attain the set seeds production, the center has entered into contract with two separate companies, Yangu Macho Group Limited and Felisa Company for the production of the remaining 3,000,000 seeds, whereby the Kihinga Centre will produce the remaining 2,000,000 seeds.
In an interview with the ‘Business Times’, the National Coordinator for Oil Palm Research in Tanzania, Dr Filson Kagimbo, said, however, as of June 20, this year, the centre had already produced at least 1,805,868 seeds of coded TENERA, which suffices to cover a total of 36,117 acres.
Despite multiple efforts to push for mass cultivation of the crop, Dr Kagimbo itemised lack of enough improved oil palm seed varieties and poor awareness on best practices among farmers and agricultural officers among factors that might thwart mass cultivation of the crop in Tanzania.
In efforts to contain the situation, he said, the centre has embarked on a fresh programme to train extension officers in Kigoma Region over agronomic practices for the professional cultivation of palm oil.
He said in Tanzania, oil palm production was still mainly concentrated in the region, which accounts for more than 80 percent of all oil palm production in Tanzania.
‘’That is why the centre had decided to start imparting the extension officers in the region, using the best practices, ‘’ the national coordinator pointed out.
“After Kigoma, the plan is to extend the training to other oil palm production regions, including Mbeya, Morogoro, Kagera, Tanga, Dar es Salaam, Coast and Zanzibar,” he informed this newspaper.
In recent years, the government has opted to revamp production of palm oil to curb increased importation of the crop into the country.
Available records show that in 2018, Tanzania produced a total of 40,500 tons of palm oil, out of which 31,750 tons were produced from 19,640 hectares in Kigoma Region.
The amount produced is equivalent to 1.6 tons per hectare which is lower than the average produced in Malaysia, of 8 to 9 tons per hectare.
The low amount of palm oil produced has contributed to the use of low yielding oil palm varieties, small areas of land devoted to palm production, poor agronomic practices, use of low – quality planting material, old palm trees, which have not been replanted for over a century, pot processing facilities and lack of extension services.
In Tanzania, most farmers still do not use any input on oil palm farms and use poor agronomic practices associated with the use of fire in weed management, lack of water supplements during dry spell, soil infertility, improper pruning and harvesting technique attributed to tremendous yield losses.
“Capacity building on proper crop management practices and provision of subsidies for most of the required agricultural inputs may significantly improve oil palm yield in Tanzania,” Dr. Kagimbo observed.
Statistic depicts that Tanzania imports 365,000 metric tons of edible oil annually which costs the government at least 443bn/-
Palm oil is the most consumed edible oil in Tanzania due to its widespread availability and cost- effectiveness. In 2016, domestic edible oil consumption was estimated to be 570,000MT, 64 per cent, of it being palm oil, 30 per cent sunflower and 2 per cent cottonseed oil.