Ugandan government-run Microfinance Support Centre (MSC) has granted a 1bn Ugandan shilling (US$280,000) loan to edible oil firm Ngetta Tropical Holdings to improve sunflower oil production in the country.

The loan was made to Ngetta as MSC believed the company’s operations could improve the livelihoods of farmers in northern Uganda, the country’s Daily Monitor newspaper wrote on 29 January.

Ngetta Holdings was currently working with 33 cooperatives covering more than 24,000 farmers engaged in sunflower cultivation.

It provided farmers with high quality sunflower seeds and bought back the farmers’ entire crop at a premium price, processing the product into sunflower cooking oil.

Paul Omara, CEO at Ngetta Holdings, told Daily Monitor that Uganda imported approximately 65% of its cooking oil, with imports consisting mostly of palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Even as Uganda’s sunflower oil production continues to increase, demand for the product has continued to outstrip supply, forcing the country to rely on imports,” said Ugandan State Minister of Trade Michael Werikhe Kafabusa.

According to Kafabusa, Uganda’s vegetable oil demand stood at about 120,000 tonnes/year, but the country had a domestic production capacity of only 40,000 tonnes annually.