How groundnuts farming can curb edible oil shortage

By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. Groundnut is among the widely grown crops in Tanzania.

If more investment is made in the production of the crop, it could play a significant role in addressing the country’s edible oil shortage as well as contribute to increased income.

Apart from export, groundnuts have been significantly contributing to domestic production of 300,000 tonnes of cooking oil out of the 650,000 needed.

Following the 350,000 tonnes cooking oil deficit, Tanzania has been spending over Sh440 billion for importing the same in order to fill the shortage.

The amount could be used in development projects if stakeholders would increase production of seeds used for edible oil production including groundnuts, sunflower, palm seeds and cotton seeds among others.

Tabling the 2022/23 budget in Parliament, the minister of Agriculture, Mr Hussein Bashe outlined the trend of groundnuts production in tonnes and respective years in brackets as; 216,167 (2017); 370,356 (2018); 376,520 (2019); 631,465 (2020) and 895,219 (2021). Despite domestic requirement for cooking oil, there is also growing demand for groundnut exports.

Advertisement

Reports published on the Tanzania Trade Development Authority (Tantrade) website, show that Sudan demands 5,000 tonnes of groundnuts from Tanzania, widening the market opportunity for growers.

“Tanzania farmers should make better use of the opportunity in order to benefit from available opportunities, given that most of the country’s land is suitable for groundnut production,” says the national coordinator of groundnut research, Dr Happy Daudi.

Dr Daudi who works with the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (Tari) at the Naliendele centre says groundnuts, which are widely grown in different parts of the country have a stable and reliable market.

She names some of the groundnut growing regions as Mtwara, Dodoma, Shinyanga, Katavi, Kigoma, Songwe and Tabora, Kilimanjaro, Manyara and Mara.

“Farmers should use seeds approved by the country’s authorities because they have been tested and proved to produce high yields and are resistant to disease infections,” she says.

“The good thing is that demands for improved groundnut seeds have gradually been increasing in the country. For instance, in 2020, 1 tonne was produced and the amount increased to 15 tonnes in 2021,” she adds.

Tabling the 2022/23 budget in Parliament, Mr Bashe said 18 tonnes of groundnut seeds were produced last season out of which 15.5 tonnes had been distributed to farmers.

Groundnut varieties

There are several groundnut varieties thriving in the country. They include Mtwaranut 2016; Tanzanut 2016; Naliendele 2009; Mangaka 2009 and Mnanje 2009. Others are Masasi 2009; Nachingwea 2009; Nachi 2015; Kuchele 2015 and Narinut 2015.

Most of these varieties mature at an average of 100 to 120 days from the sowing day. They are resistant to pests and diseases and produce high yields at an average of one to 1.2 tonnes per hectare.

Groundnut farming

The crop thrives in areas with an altitude below 1,500 metres above sea level, and require an average of 1,200 milliliters of rainfall and fertile sandy soil.

“The soil should be properly tilled before sowing the seeds in order to allow thorough drainage of water and roots penetrations. Groundnuts can be grown in plain, well tilled farms or cultivated beds,” says the expert.

According to her, farmers should use improved seeds approved by experts and research institutions.

Groundnuts should be sown in 50 centimetres and 15 centimetres inter row and inter-crop spacing respectively. In case they are grown in 90 centimetre beds, then seeds should be sown in two lines and 60 to 75 kilogrammes will be needed per hectare.

Fertilizer application, weeding

Groundnuts thrive in areas with low levels of phosphorus and the crop performs better in some areas through application of organic mature.

Also, crop rotation has been helpful in conserving soil fertility, hence minimising the need for industrial fertiliser.

A farm that has been well prepared through thorough removal of perennial weeds will require one weeding round because groundnuts mature within a short period and have the ability to efficiently compete for nutrients.

Groundnuts shouldn’t be weeded after flowering in order to prevent pegs damage, which would ultimately affect the yield.

Diseases and pests

There are several groundnut diseases including aflatoxin, rusts as well as pests such as groundnut flies, mice, rats and birds.

Aflatoxin

Dr Daudi says under the presence of moisture conditions, aspergillus flavus produces poison that germinates inside groundnut shells and finally attacks the seeds.

Aflatoxin is poisonous, but it can be prevented by avoiding damaging groundnuts during harvest and ensuring the produce is stored at as minimum moisture as 10 percent.

Leaf rust

The disease could be identified by brown and black spots on groundnut leaves appearing three to five weeks of the crop’s germination.

The disease can be controlled through early planting and application of chlorothalonil at a recommended ratio of 1.6 kilos to 800 litres of water, which is enough for a one hectare area.

Aphids or aphis craccivora

The major effect of the pest is transmitting rosette disease. However, they are easily washed from the leaves during the rains.

The pests can be controlled through early planting and close spacing.

Groundnut hoppers

These pests suck the pegs and groundnuts at the tender age, therefore turning the leaves yellow. The crop then withers, drying completely.

The pests also affect other crops like beans, sunflower and cashews, but crop rotation is among the much recommended method.

In large plantations, chemicals applications such as aldrin or chlorpyrifos before planting or spraying with dimethoate after pests’ invasion are among the control measures.

Also, the crop shouldn’t be mixed with cashews or pigeon peas in one farm in order to prevent the disease.

Mice

The first type of mice destroys the lower part of the roots, making holes and creating their settlement.The second type affects the branches mainly in new farms, which could lead to serious loss of yields.

These could be controlled through the use of alandrin 40 percent powder comprising 2.5 kilogrammes per hectare. Experts recommend that it should be mixed with phosphate fertiliser and sand.

Rats

These affect crops during germination and shortly before harvest. Experts suggest controlling them through use of chemicals, traps and destroying their hideouts.

Birds

Like rats, birds affect groundnuts before germination, shortly after sowing as well as after they have completely matured.

Birds are controlled through the use of traps, chasing and scaring them away.

Harvesting

Groundnuts should be harvested after they have completely matured. They should be dried for about two to three weeks to reduce moisture content to below 13 percent.

Processing, storage

Groundnut processing is a laborious job as a person can process an average of 12 to 15 kilogrammes per day. However, there are processing machines that have been invented to simplify the job.

Groundnuts intended to be stored for future use including as seeds should be preserved in warehouses without being processed. Storage warehouses should be completely dry, well ventilated and strong enough to prevent destructive animals like rats.

Groundnuts tend to lose germination ability after they have been taken out of shells.