Editor's Comment

Boosting Zampalm production to save forex

Palm-oil plantation.

THE Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) says it will this year increase production of crude oil at Zampalm Limited from 31 tonnes last year to 160 tonnes.
This is certainly a step in the right direction as it will drastically reduce the country’s dependence on imported edible oils and subsequently save on financial resources.
Annually, the country consumes about 120,000 tonnes of cooking oil but only produces between 30 and 50 percent of the total supply.
More than half of Zambia’s edible oil is imported from the Far East, East Africa and South Africa.
Government spends between US$70 million and US$100 million on edible oil imports annually.
It is estimated that in 10 years, Zambia would have externalised between US$700 million and US$1 billion through importation of edible oils.
We are, however, elated that with increased production at Zampalm, the country will be able to save this money and channel it to other needy areas.
For a developing country like ours, this money can go a long way in addressing some of the vexing challenges in the provision of education, infrastructure, quality health care and alleviation of poverty in general.
Increasing production of edible oils will also translate into job creation at different stages of the supply chain.
For the 3,000 hectares of land, which Zampalm is currently cultivating, it has 900 full-time employees.
And now that Zampalm will cultivate an additional 3,000 hectares, it is expected that the number of employees will also increase.
Jobs will also be created at the distribution and retail stages of the supply chain.
It is also good to note that through increased production, Zampalm intends to empower between 5,000 and 10,000 small-scale farmers through out-grower schemes.
Zampalm will provide the farmers with seedlings, training and extension services to enable them to feed into the crushing plant.
This will no doubt help alleviate poverty among the rural communities.
While IDC’s priority is to meet local demand for edible oils, Zampalm also presents an opportunity to earn foreign exchange through exportation.
Zampalm sits on a 20-hectare piece of land but only 3,000 is currently being utilised. This year IDC intends to use an additional 3,000 hectares bringing the total size of land to be utilised for palm tree planting to 6,000 hectares. This means 14,000 will still remain idle.
There is therefore plenty room to expand production and meet the readily available market in neighbouring DR Congo and Angola.
What is even more heartening is the superiority of the product we have on offer.
It is an established fact that palm oil is the world’s most used and versatile vegetable oil. In addition to cooking oil, its derivatives are found in foods such as margarines and ice cream, and is also used as a thickener, preservative and antioxidant; in personal care products such as shampoo and cosmetics; industrial products such as lubricants paints and inks; and as a renewable fuel.
The palm plant is the most efficient oil producing plant and can be harvested for 25 years and as long as the tree continues to yield a harvest.
It is indisputable that Zampalm has massive potential to help accelerate the country’s diversification and industrialisation agenda as laid out in the Seventh National Development Plan.
IDC should therefore consider sourcing funding for more investment into the plantation.
This is the only way we will be able to derive maximum economic value from the plantation.

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