By Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei
Ugandan and Tanzanian sunflower oil producers had the opportunity to network with Indian buyers during business-to-business (B2B) meetings that were organized by the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) SITA project on July 25 and 27, 2016. The events, that drew large numbers of participants – over 70 in Uganda, and over 90 in the United Republic of Tanzania – offered a unique opportunity for the East African businesses to interact with overseas buyers – an opportunity many of them had not had before.
In recent years, there has been an increase in demand for sunflower crops such as sunflower oil. The United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda are significant producers of sunflower oil, but low farm yields, a shortage of sunflower seeds and inefficient technology reduce the competitiveness of these producers internationally, as well as in the local market.
ITC, through its Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project, aims to strengthen the supply-side capacities of Ugandan and Tanzanian sunflower oil producers, build institutional linkages between East Africa and India for knowledge transfer, as well as market linkages. The project is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
In the last year, SITA brought national stakeholders together in Uganda and in the United Republic of Tanzania, to design a framework for the development of the sunflower oil sector. This exercise created awareness of the international market for sunflower oil, and the areas that need to be addressed along the sunflower oil value chain. Companies received training on international quality standards, and Indian expertise was brought in, to advise sunflower oil refineries on how to implement small adjustments that can easily and cost-effectively increase productivity.
The main institutions responsible for the sunflower oil sector – the Tanzania Sunflower Oil Processor Association (TASUPA) and Uganda Oil Seed Producers and Processors Association (UOSPA) – participated in different institutional strengthening activities, to further improve their service delivery to their members. In Tanzania for example, TASUPA is now supporting technological advancement in the sunflower oil industry by linking university students (engineers and food technologists) from Sokoine University of Agriculture with sunflower oil mills.
The aim of the recent B2B meetings was to foster business linkages between East African and Indian companies in the sunflower industry, and to promote public-private dialogue and partnerships. SITA collaborated with the Solvent Extractor Association (SEA) of India, who took part in the events with a delegation of twelve members.
The B2B meetings were well attended, and drew interest from business owners, oilseed farmers’ cooperatives, trade and investment support institutions, government agencies, members of the press and development partners. Negotiations of a few thousand tons have followed from companies’ participation in the B2B meetings, whose fruits we will be able to see in the next couple of months. Amongst others, negotiations for the import of 2000 metric tons of sunflower oil cake per month from the United Republic of Tanzania are currently underway.
Feedback to the event testifies to its eye-opening nature for participating companies. Following from the meetings, companies report they are now more aware of the quality improvements they need to be export-ready, and are keen to explore value addition possibilities. Companies recognize the need to come together, to improve their scale of production and to leverage available technologies.
Many participating companies are currently working towards attracting technology transfer and investment from India to achieve these improvements. “I was privileged to meet Servotech Ltd from Mumbai at the event and we are keenly discussing how to work with them, to fully automate our entire processing unit which uses equipment we imported recently from Shreeji of India,” said Mr George William Wilobo of the Ugandan Kyempara Cooperative Society.
In Tanzania, one miller is currently in discussion with an Indian company regarding the lease of the Tanzanian oil mill for an initial period of six months. This will allow the Indian company to gain a better understanding of the Tanzanian market, and will provide learning and knowledge transfer opportunities to the Tanzanian miller.
By the way, did you know that up until a sunflower is in full bloom, the head faces wherever the sun is located? Once it begins to fully bloom, the sunflower’s head gets heavier as the seeds begin to grow and fill with oil, and the sunflower faces east for the rest of its life. It seems only logical for the Ugandan and Tanzanian sunflower oil to be eastbound…