Kampala- The Micro Finance Support Centre has awarded Ngetta Tropical Holdings, a local agribusiness firm based in Lira District, a soft loan of Shs1 billion to scale up production of sunflower cooking oil.

Speaking during the awarding of the funds to Ngetta Holdings at Golden Tulip Hotel on Friday, Mr Peter Mujuni, the managing director Microfinance Support Centre, a credit fund established by government, last week said they believed in the course of providing farmers in Northern Ugandan with a livelihood and committed to providing a soft loan of Shs1 billion to Ngetta Holdings.

“We also agreed to continue supporting him with financing to enable him support the farmers through sunflower cooking oil,” he said.

Speaking during the launch of Virgin Gold, a cooking oil product of Ngetta Holdings recently, Mr Michael Werikhe Kafabusa, the State Minister of Trade, said sunflower is a high value environmentally friendly export crop whose production is being promoted in Uganda.

“Even as Uganda’s vegetable oil production of sunflower continues to increase, demand for the product has continued to outstrip supply, forcing the country to rely on imports,” he said.

He said Uganda’s vegetable oil demand stands at 120,000 metric tonnes against a production capacity of only 40,000 metric tonnes, leaving a deficit of 80,000 metric tonnes annually.

Mr Paul Omara, the chief executive officer Ngetta Tropical Holdings, said Uganda imports about 65 per cent of cooking oil, which is mainly palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Although the country has about 68 millers, most of them are operating below capacity.

Using the cooperatives model, Ngetta Holdings is currently working with 33 co-operatives comprising more than 24,000 farmers who are engaged in sunflower growing. The company suplies high quality sunflower seed to the famers and employs 32 permanent staff and 50 casual workers.

The company supplies high quality seed to farmers, and buys back the entire sunflower at a premium price. The edible oil firm has started processing the sunflower into sunflower cooking oil.