The Malawi Enterprise Productivity Enhancement (Mepe) under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism will next month open two cooking oil centres of excellence in Mchinji and Phalombe districts.
The two centres, which have been set-up at Kamwendo Cooking Oil Cooperative Society in Mchinji and Phalombe Sunflower Processing Centre, will help Malawi reduce its volumes of imported cooking oil.
Statistics show that the total cost of edible oils and crude oil which is imported and then refined in Malawi is at K13.8 billion annually, according to Mepe project coordinator Wiskes Nkombezi.
He told Business News that Malawi has been imported about 4.5 million litres of unrefined cooking oil every year.
But the two centres have capacity to produce over 3 million litres of cooking oil per year thanks to Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Adjustment Facility (CAF) initiative, funded by the European Union (EU).
Malawi’s Mepe received 1.5 million euros (K1.3 billion) to implement the accelerator programme.
“The centres will help Malawi save some of its foreign exchange as it will help reduce the cooking oil import bill.
“At 100 per cent utilisation, Kamwendo has the capacity to produce 1.5 million litres per annum. It means the two centres can produce over 3.0 million litres per annum,” he explained.
Nkombezi said the project is a direct intervention in the oil-seed small and medium enterprise (SMEs) and cooperatives with the aim of addressing the key productive capacity constraints.
EU desk officer for Malawi Ana Gordon Vergara in an interview after visiting the two centres in Mchinji last Friday, expressed satisfaction at progress made so far.
“I am happy with the effort made. This facility will serve to benefit many cooperatives through learning of various aspects of oil processing and business management and financial management skills,” she added.
On his part, Mepe project manager Nelson Nsiku said the centre is almost 90 percent ready.
“For the centre at Kamwendo, we have spent about 157 000 euros [K134 million]. By mid-October, we should be open,” he said.
The establishment of the two centres has excited sunflower farmers in the country who have been lacking a steady market.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development statistics show that annual rainfed crop estimates last year, sunflower production has been going up and is estimated to hit 21 000 metric tonnes this year.
A sunflower farmer, Zelifa Siteni, who this year harvested 80 bags weighing 50 kilograme each of sunflower, said she is encouraging tobacco farmers to start growing sunflower.
“We will have a ready market for the crop than before. With 80 bags, I managed to get over K1.5 million,” she said.