Zimbabwe’s cooking oil industry in partnership with the Food Crop Contractors Association is targeting to grow about 23 000 hectares of soyabeans under contract farming as the sector moves to cut the import bill, Business Times can report.
Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe president Busisa Moyo said the move, meant to improve productivity and reduce the dependency on imports, would require about US$30m.
“The Food Crop Contractors Association and Oil Expressers Association of Zimbabwe are working on contracting 23 000 hectares of soya beans depending on support from the financial services sector.
“This is targeted to produce circa 60 000 metric tonnes of soya bean for chicken feed as well as cooking oil. To successfully contract this hectarage US$30m is needed,” Moyo told Business Times.
It is understood that a hectare of soyabeans costs around US$1100 compared to US$800 required for maize.
Last year, cooking oil players planted 12 000 hectares of soyabeans under contract farming from the planned 20 000 hectares due to the delays in funding.
Moyo said they have since engaged various banks for the project but the sector is wary of punitive interest rates.
“Interest rates that are viable for farmers are between 15% and 18% for the coming season given inflation expectations to year end and early next year,” he said.
He added: “The sector requires support through guarantees and other off balance sheet support in order to expand hectarage and output and reduce import dependency progressively.
“No contractor has a balance sheet large enough to contract the required 100 000 hectare [output 250 000 tonnes] to meet the stockfeed demand in the coming years.”
Agriculture experts say Zimbabwe has the best soils and climate for soyabeans farming but the output is disappointing.
Moyo said the industry could have used only 40 000 tonnes from the possible 71 000 and there could be a possibility of farmers wanting to get higher money.
Recently, the government increased soyabeans prices to above ZWL$70 000 per metric tonne from ZWL$48 000 per metric tonne to encourage the production of the leguminous crop.
“The stockfeed processors accessed only 40,000 metric tonnes for stockfeed and oil seed processing out of an estimated 70,000 metric tonnes of soya beans produced last. It is possible that some farmers are holding onto their beans for higher prices in the fourth quarter of 2021 as is the practice in the farming community,” Moyo said.
Experts believe that soyabeans production could surpass the 100 000 tonnes mark if the private sector could manage 23 000 hectares and the government with another 30 000 hectares.