State mulls palm tree farming to tame cooking oil prices

Fruit of oil palm trees. [iStockphoto]

Homa Bay, Tharaka Nithi and Lamu counties have been identified as ideal for palm tree farming in a new plan by the government to manage the rising cost of imported cooking oil.

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria told The Standard the plan set for next year is expected to move the country away from reliance on imports from Indonesia.

"Now we have Sh20 cooking oil. Next year, we want to start growing some palm oil trees here in Kenya. We are working with counties like Homa Bay, Lamu and Tharaka Nithi," said the CS.

"We do not want to continue importing edible oil. We spend Sh150 billion importing. We want to be self-sufficient."

CS Kuria, who was speaking at the launch of Mama Pima, an oil dispensing machine for low-income earners in Kawangware, Nairobi, said the country will borrow a leaf from Indonesia on how to be self-sufficient in palm oil production.

The CS, whose docket also handles Industry and Investments, said the idea of cooking oil dispensers is borrowed from Indonesia.

"Indonesia is the leading producer of cooking oil globally. Its economy is 18 times that of Kenya, and they have this machine that caters for the low-income person," said the CS.

The machines will dispense cooking oil from as low as Sh10 and will be strategically located in residential areas.

The ministry sees this as a creative solution to the high prices of cooking oil in the country, which average Sh360 per litre.

However, a number of traders have set up shop in the residential areas but do not sell quantities less than a litre.

Kuria said the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) will spearhead the installation of more palm oil dispensing machines across the country, which will be locally made.

"We do not want to import the machines," said the CS.

The CS said the government through the Hustler Fund will also empower individuals through registered groups to sell cooking oil using the vending machines.

This will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Cooperatives and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

The launch comes on the sidelines of Indonesia President Joko Widodo's visit to Kenya.

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