The Malawi Enterprise Productivity Enhancement (MEPE) will open two cooking oil centers of excellence in Mchinji and Phalombe districts in October 2017. The two centres, which have been set-up at the Kamwendo Cooking Oil Cooperative Society in Mchinji and Phalombe Sunflower Processing Centre, will help Malawi reduce its volumes of imported cooking oil.
According to MEPE project coordinator Wiskes Nkombezi, 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 ($19m) annually.
Mr Nkombezi said Malawi has been importing about 4.5 million litres of unrefined cooking oil every year. The two centers has capacity to produce over three million litres of cooking oil per year.
The funding for the MEPE Project was facilitated by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Adjustment Facility (CAF) initiative, with funding by the European Union (EU). The MEPE project is under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism of Malawi.
Malawi’s MEPE received 1.5 million euros (K1.3 billion) to implement the accelerator programme which will help save the country’s foreign exchange owing to reduced cost of production and hence cutting down on oil imports.
The European Union Desk officer for Malawi, Ms. Ana Gordon Vergara in an interview after visiting the two centers in Mchinji recently, expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far.
“I am happy with the progress made as this facility will benefit many cooperatives through training in various aspects of oil processing and business management and financial management skills,” she said.
MEPE Project Manager, Mr Nelson Nsiku said the centre was almost 90 percent ready.
“For the centre at Kamwendo, we have spent about 157 000 euros (K134 million) and by mid-October, we should be open,” he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development statistics show that owing to annual rain fed crop estimates last year, sunflower production has been going up and is estimated to hit 21,000 metric tonnes this year.
The establishment of the two centres has excited sunflower farmers in the country who have been lacking a steady market. Ms. Zelifa Siteni, a sunflower farmer, who this year harvested 80 bags weighing 50 kilograms each said she was encouraging tobacco farmers to switch to sunflower.
“We will now have a ready market that was not there before for the crop,” she said.