Southern Times Correspondent
There has been a global shift by farmers to focus more on the production of cash crops and soya beans has been one of the most lucrative produces in Zimbabwe.
However, analysts say the country is increasingly becoming a net importer of soya beans as the demand increases and that local famers can tap into the increased global and domestic demand for increased profits.
According to Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (Zimstats), the August 2018 merchandise imports increased by 3.0 percent, from US$559.9 million in July 2018 to US$576.5 million.
The country’s imports continued to be dominated by energy, medicines, crude soya bean oil and others, with soya bean oil constituting a 2.1 percent share of the total import bill for the month of August, which is significant. The lack of competitiveness in Zimbabwe’s soya value chain has led the country to be a net importer of soya bean and soya bean products, importing approximately 9,300 tonnes of soya beans and seed, approximately 119,000 tonnes of crude oil and 78,900 tonnes of soya meal in 2016 which is a precarious challenge given Zimbabwe’s liquidity crisis.
According to a study conducted by the Zimbabwe Economic Policy and Research Unit (Zeparu), the current output from soya production falls short of the national demand of 600,000 metric tonnes required for oil expressing and 200,000 tonnes required for livestock feed production with the gap filled by competitive imports of soya bean, crude oil and cake.
Analysts said addressing competitiveness issues in the soya value chain is therefore critical to manage liquidity in the country and unlock the full potential of other agricultural value chains.
“Rising demand for soya availability of a ready market and a supply gap that is filled in by imports is a huge opportunity for soya production in Zimbabwe.
"What is needed is to boost production as we scale down on imports of soya meal and crude oil to stimulate local demand for locally produced products. Further, demand for soya is going up both locally and regionally driven by poultry and piggery, dairy and beef. Simply processing soybean into oil and cake does not offer very large returns but conversion of soybean protein to poultry meat is a key opportunity for value addition.
"In 2016, for example, the total broiler meat production, inclusive of informal production, was estimated at 118,000 tonnes, with a 70 percent contribution from the smallholder sector (LMAC, 2017). This translates to about $330.4 million when sold at the average whole sale price of $2.80/kg or $413 million when sold at an average retail price of $3.50/kg.
"In this regard, increasing the viability and productivity of soya beans will trigger multiple value chains in the food processing and livestock industries. The growth of the local markets has mainly been in the small-scale poultry production. Further, urbanisation and the up surge in the middle class increased the demand for protein. "Poultry is the cheapest source of meat-based protein compared to beef and pork whose prices have gone up significantly. Hence there has been a growing consumption of poultry relative to other sources of animal protein. Capacity utilisation in poultry is 75 percent. There is huge untapped potential since per capita consumption of chicken in Zimbabwe is low (9kg) compared to that of other countries which is around 35-40kg.The livestock industry is poised for growth and soya is a major protein source hence there is scope for higher demand for soya bean,” stated the Zeparu study.
The Zimbabwean Government's command agriculture initiative provides cheap inputs and a guaranteed market. Although it is a short-term measure, it will go a long way in boosting soya bean production.
However, a gap still exists especially in the support for harvesting equipment. The policy institution recommended that a more sustainable programme needs to be rolled out to boost soya bean production and value addition in Zimbabwe. A long-term local content policy to support the development of a comprehensive strategy for locally produced soya bean and by-products is required.
“Lowering the cost of production, increasing productivity and soya production volumes is key to achieving export competitiveness. However, stock feed manufacturing is currently not at full capacity. The sector has the capacity to produce 1.5 million tonnes/year, but current production is between 530,000 to 540, 000mt/year. Performance of dairy and beef farming which is still to recover fully is a key driver of the demand for stock feeds.
"Broiler producers produce between 112,000 to 114,000mt of meat per year while the country produces around 48 million dozen of eggs/year. Some stakeholders observed that there is growing interest in Zimbabwean poultry by the Chinese which induces further demand for soya based or enriched stock feeds. Consultations made with stakeholders revealed that Zimbabwe’s annual production will serve just a meal for the Beijing population (around 22 million) implying a huge market opportunity for Zimbabwe. Production of competing oil crops like cotton increases competition for oil expressing but soya cake remains the dominant ingredient in the production of poultry stock feeds,” recommended Zeparu.