The public-private partnership between the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Zambeef Products operating the Zampalm plantation project in Muchinga, Zambia, aims to commercialise the production of palm oil. The project is aimed at developing the country’s economy and improving the livelihood of citizens.
The local production and processing of crude palm oil is expected to drastically reduce Zambia’s dependence on the commodity, as well as edible oil imports. Zambia spends more than US$70 million importing oil every year. It is a costly exercise for the country as it consumes around 120 000 tons of cooking oil, yet only produces 30% to 50% of the total supply. More than half of the country’s edible oil consumption comes from the Far East, East Africa and South Africa.
Zambian Finance Minister,Felix Mutati visited Muchinga and was impressed of the impact that the Zampalm plantation had on the economy, society and the environment. The Zampalm project currently has 409 506 palms planted over 2 873 ha in its main plantation with a further 300 ha that will be planted before the end of the year. The main and pre-nursery is planted with 96 000 seedlings of palms.
“It’s amazing that we are now able to harvest, to produce palm oil and be able to sell it. The passion and the commitments of the workers are incredible and the determination of management is immeasurable. It’s a very satisfying project not only for the local area but for all of us,” said Mutati.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
The plantation in is set to be a centre of development as the country seeks to grow its agro-processing capacity and create a strong manufacturing base.
Dr. Jacob Mwanza, Zambeef’s Chairman, believes that involving the community in the project will help generate employment and sustainable economic growth in the area.
“Zambeef took on a bold and pioneering spirit to start the project. It’s so important that we partner with IDC because of the developmental nature of this project. We wanted it to remain Zambian and contribute to the development of this part of our beloved republic and that as we go along, Zambia will one day be an exporter of palm oil instead of importing,” said Mwanza.
The palm is an efficient oil producing plant which can be harvested for 25 years. It provides farmers with an additional crop apart from the traditional cassava and maize. Palm oil is the world’s most used and versatile vegetable oil.
Its derivatives are used as a thickener, preservative and antioxidant. It can be found in foods (cooking oil, margarine and ice), personal care products (cosmetics and shampoo), industrial goods (lubricants, paints and ink) as well as renewable fuel.
BENEFITS FOR SMALLHOLDER FARMERS
An outgrower scheme will enable small-scale farmers to participate in the palm oil production industry. Farmers will be provided with the seedlings, training and inputs required in managing their farms. The harvested fruit will then be sold back to Zampalm for processing at its crushing plant, providing a ready market.
Once fully operational, Zampalm will also present opportunities for exports to neighbouring countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola, who are also importers.
With Zambia’s realigned focus on industrialisation, the country is expected to see an increase in demand for palm oil as new industries and markets are created.