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Oil maker defies economic crisis to boost investment

By | June 1st 2009

By Philip Mwakio and Patrick Beja

Despite the shocks of the global economic downturn, a leading manufacturer of edible oils has resolved to scale up investment in more lucrative ventures to drive profit.

Pwani Oil Products is looking at agriculture as a core investment after edible oil and bar soap manufacturing.

Pwani Oil Products factory in Kikambala, Kilifi. The company will invest in agriculture. [PHOTO: omondi onyango/standard]

In an interview with The Standard, Pwani Oil Director Rajul Malde, said the company’s new venture was pegged on an ambition to be multi-faceted.

It recently embarked on a major expansion programme of manufacturing processes and built a second plant in Kikambala, Kilifi District, after its Jomvu factory in Mombasa.

The new plant operates at 30 per cent capacity and employs 80 people. Hundreds are expected to be hired once it runs full capacity.

Already, work on the manufacture of soap nodules and raw material in soap making has started at the new Sh1 billion plant.

locally made

The firm is the first of its kind in East Africa to manufacture soap nodules, which used to be imported.

"We are now able to manufacture nodules at our new Kikambala plant, which we in turn use in the manufacture of soap variants," said Mr Malde. There are purchase orders for soap nodules manufactured at the new plant to detergent manufacturing plants in and outside Kenya. Some of the new clients for Pwani Oil-manufactured soap nodules locally are Cussons, Orbit Chemicals and Inter Consumer Products.

Malde said with a daily production of 100 tonnes of the soap nodules, the firm is able to attract markets in the Southern Sudan and Ethiopia.

"We have received inquiries from South Africa and are looking further to tap into the international market with firm undertakings in far-flung locations like the islands of Fiji, India and Dubai," Malde explained.

On its agriculture project, Pwani Oil is conducting field trials on exotic plants and indigenous vegetables like capsicum, oyster mushrooms, yellow, purple and green pepper and cabbages.

"We hope to give a variety to the retail market in and around Mombasa and are on the pilot project whose cost we estimate at Sh2 million."

The project on an experimental basis, Malde adds, will form the basis for a fully-fledged agricultural venture that would encompass outgrowers in the Kikambala region.

"Once the pilot project succeeds, we shall be able to offer advice to farmers by giving them the required farming techniques through standardised training before venturing into full vegetable retailing in the near future," Malde said.

They intend to expand the project area by acquiring more land and pump between Sh8 to 10 million for land preparation.

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