Oilseed crops play a crucial role in human diet and industrial application. With evolving food habits, the demand for edible oils is increasing every year. This consistent and growing demand represents an opportunity for East Africa’s Agriculture sector, whose major oilseed crops are sunflower, soyabean, sesame, oil palm, coconut and groundnut. However, East Africa does not produce enough oilseeds to make the most of the market opportunities – nor enough for its own growing population. As a result, local oilseed production is complemented through imports, leading to forex outflow.
Reducing edible oil imports, by promoting domestic production and growing the sector towards self-sufficiency, is thus a long-standing goal for policymakers and other stakeholders in East Africa.
The first requirement in achieving self-sufficiency in oilseed production is the development of high-quality hybrid seeds. Though East Africa has seed varieties in some crops that are advanced, accessing them from research centres and commercialization of the same is a challenge. The unavailability of high-quality seeds forces farmers to use old seed material, which leads to lower yield and heightened susceptibility to pests and diseases. Private sector players are further discouraged from investing in seed development due to costs of royalty and a high cost of effective commercialization.
Government policies could do more to support the oilseed sector’s journey towards self-sufficiency. However, as it stands seed policy is either too generic, treating all early-stage germplasm as a public good with heavy state involvement, or too specific, applying odd policies for specific crops in specific countries. Nevertheless, challenges in seed availability can be overcome by scaling up the formal seed sector while also supporting the informal seed systems. This technical report seeks to provide a policy-maker’s guide as to how, by:
Presenting the current status of germplasm in the East African oilseed sector, more specifically covering sunflower, soya bean and sesame in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Developing a generalized framework that informs interventions on specific oilseed crops based on market conditions. Providing recommendations to help guide key stakeholders in the seed sector in their investments and interventions.
You can view and download the technical report here.