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Organisation: International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC)
Author: O.G. Schmidt
Edited by AGSI/FAO: Danilo Mejia (Technical), Beverly Lewis (Language&Style), Carolin Bothe (HTML transfer)

CHAPTER V OILSEEDS: Post-harvest Operations

1.1 Economic and Social Impact

1.2 World trade

1.3 Primary product

1.6 Consumer preferences

1 Introduction

Sub-Saharan Africa is a net importer of edible vegetable oil, protein cake and meal required for the dairy, poultry and pork industries. The entry of private-sector interests into post-liberalisation economies in African countries has highlighted the importance of production of annual oilseeds. When recent surpluses of palm oil pushed the commodity near discount prices, it became the interest of those holding the oil-surplus to sell their edible oil wherever they could.

There is a growing understanding that the national requirements for edible oil and protein cake can be met by engaging smallholder farmers in the production of annual oilseeds. Such production would make full use of the capacity of the domestic processing industry. In turn this activity would create or sustain jobs to produce both oil and the feed cake.

A cursory examination will show that many countries have weak or non-existent dairy and animal products industries, an effect of the overriding policy to make sufficient cooking oil available to the urban consumer. This policy ignored the potential of involving the domestic farmer in oilseed production, thus providing the domestic protein cake for the dairy and meat production industries.

At the same time, it is known that the region has a great agro-climatic potential for increased production of annual oil-bearing seeds like sunflower seeds and soybeans, which have substantial market demand especially in South Africa.

On average in the Eastern and Southern Africa region, only Zimbabwe has demonstrated long-term self-sufficiency in oilseeds, with a mix of sunflower seeds and soybeans. Only in years of drought does the country have to import both edible oil and protein cake. Preferably, Zimbabwe would buy the right quantities of the oilseed to ensure that the local processing industry is fully utilised.

1.1 Economic and Social Impact

Oil-bearing plants offer a range of opportunities for small holder farmers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa:

Manual processing near the farm gate as a small scale enterprise, and home utilization of the co-products-the edible oil is consumed in food for body energy to counter protein-energy malnutrition or under-nutrition; the protein-rich cake (sunflower, Niger seed, sesame) is fed to cattle for increased milk production, to poultry and to pigs.

Consuming the whole oil-bearing seed as a snack (e.g. groundnuts), or baking the oilseed (sesame) into a snack food such as biscuits.

The sale of farm surplus to the domestic crushing and refining industries (sunflower, sesame, Niger seed, mustard, rape).

The sale of high-grade farm surplus for export to the confectionery industries in the industrialized nations (groundnuts and sesame) (Makoko, M.S. and H.R. Balaka. 1991).

1.2 World trade

The annual oil-bearing crops of most importance to Sub-Saharan Africa, each with its own agro-climatic zone, include:

Groundnut (or peanut) (Arachis hypogae)

Sesame (called simsim in East Africa) (Sesamum indicum)

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Rapeseed (Turnip rape, or Polish canola) (Brassica rapa, formerly campestris)

Rapeseed (Argentine rape, or Argentine canola) (Brassica napus)

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorium)

Niger seed (Guizotia abyssinica) has particular importance in Ethiopia, where it is called noug. Mustard seed (Brassica carinata) and linseed (Linum usitatissimum) also have special importance in Ethiopia particularly.

Two additional annual crops must be mentioned, though neither is technically considered an oilseed. Cotton (Gossypium spp) is not planted for its edible oil, but rather for the fibre, for use in the textiles industry. However, substantial tonnage of cotton seed are a by-product; and the oil, after crushing and refining makes a substantial contribution to the supply of national vegetable oils in most countries of Eastern and Southern Africa. As well, the press-cake is an important raw material for animal feeds.

Similarly, countries which have solvent extraction capability make use of the germ from maize (Zea mais) removed in roller milling in order to improve the shelf life of the maize meal (flour) by reducing its tendency to become rancid. The oil recovered from the germ can also make a substantial contribution to domestic supplies of vegetable oil.

Soybean (Glycine max) represents a special opportunity in many countries. The world-wide demand for soybeans is driven by the demand for protein meals for the dairy and meat production industries. Containing only 18 percentage by weight of oil, it cannot be crushed easily by manual or mechanical means to extract the oil. It requires expensive and sophisticated solvent extraction methods (or extrusion followed by motorised expelling). In the industrialised world, the oil is viewed nearly as a by-product, important to make the high-protein feed cake. In Eastern and Southern Africa, only South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya have real solvent extraction capacity, which sends specific price signals to small holder farmers. There is substantial demand for soybeans from South Africa alone, whose representatives have travelled as far north as Uganda to seek contracts for the production of surplus for export.

In the rest of the region, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, soybeans are an exotic crop to most small holder farmers. It has been found that farmer adoption of the crop is strongly enhanced when home level utilisation is taught along with production practices. In this way, soybeans have a strong potential role as nutritional intervention, with resultant changes in household level food patterns.

The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) and the oilpalm (Elaeis guineensis) (perennials) are concentrated along the eastern coast (coconut), and certain high-rainfall areas on or near inland lakes (oil palm). Oil palm is also found in some islands within Uganda's portion of Lake Victoria, along the northern shore of Lake Malawi and on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. (Research documentation on coconut palm production and postproduction can be obtained from National Coconut Development Programme, PO Box 6226, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania).

The annuals, with the exception of soybeans, have high levels of edible oil content and protein in the press-cake.

Table 1. Oil and protein content of selected oilseeds (% content on a per weight basis) (from Zulberti, C. 1988)





In cake ----------- In seed


























1.3 Primary product

After crushing or expelling annual oilseeds yield edible vegetable oils, fats, soapstock and the protein-rich presscake. Edible oil in liquid form is preferred by consumers and known as cooking oil in Southern Africa. The same oil after hydrogenation becomes solid white cooking fat the preference of consumers in Kenya and a portion of the population in Tanzania and Uganda.

Household level soybean utilisation

Home-processed soybean has the potential of making a significant impact on the chronic undernutrition of children in Sub-Saharan Africa:

Soybeans are an excellent and affordable source of protein and of dietary fat (still the lowest cost per kg of protein in comparison to cowpeas, milk powder, poultry, pork and beef) (Osho, S.M. 1995a);

Home processing is easy and is feasible with inexpensive, common household utensils;

Soy protein has a good combination of the major essential amino acids required by the body; and daily consumption of a cereal/soybean based food will provide the amino acid complement of legumes and cereals.

Home level processing can be scaled up to small-scale manufacture, which can later grow into medium-size food processing plants.

Case study

IDRC supported two phases (phase I, 1987-1990; Phase II, 1991-1994) of collaborative work among the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA, PMB 5320, Ibadan, Nigeria) in Ibadan, the Nigerian Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T) in Ibadan, the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) in Badeggi, and the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (NAERLS) in Zaria. (see Osho, S.M. 1995a; Osho, S.M. 1995b: detailed project reports can be requested from IITA).

The project aimed to achieve the following:

Document the status of soybean utilisation in Nigeria;

Develop household level processing technologies for soybeans;

Develop small scale processing technologies for soybeans using the extruder and oil press; and

Disseminate results of the technologies to extension workers.

The key ingredients in the strategy for achieving project results included: the baseline survey, product development research, training and extension programs, and continually assessing the project impact.

Major results achieved include:

The home level processing and small scale processing technologies developed can remove the anti-nutritional factors which are contained in the raw bean, improving taste and nutritional absorption;

1993 had trained over 67,000 people trained on uses of soybeans;

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) funded a wider implementation of the IDRC-supported results with a project The Dissemination of Soybean Processing and Utilisation Technologies in Nigeria.

The establishment of a soybean utilisation centre at one of the country's busiest markets for buying and selling agricultural produce, in which upwards of 3000 people conduct business activities daily;

By 1994, the number of small and medium size food processing plants had grown to 50, from 3 in the late 1980's;

IITA has been developing plans for sharing its experiences and expertise with national research and extension programs in other countries in West Africa, and in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Case Study in Zambia

"Results of surveys carried out by the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC, PO Box 32669, Lusaka, Zambia) with FAO/UNDP assistance indicate a high prevalence of malnutrition in Zambia, particularly in the children aged 0-4 years. High prices and the present economic situation of the country make the animal protein a scarce commodity for the average man. Soybeans can help the situation a great deal because..." (Jahaveri, F. and D. Wynne, 1985).

Two years after the publication of that initial set of home level recipes, efforts at influencing the production of soybeans in the small holder sector were augmented by a training program for agricultural extension personnel with explicit emphasis on household level utilisation of soybeans. A manual finally reached publication in 1990 (Javaheri, F. 1990). By then, there were upwards of 40 non-governmental agencies active in the promotion of the growing and home-level utilisation of soybeans. (More information can be obtained through the Integrated Crop Management/Food Legumes Project, PO Box 30563, Lusaka, Zambia)

Prior to the early 80s, soybean production was limited to commercial farmers. The development of naturally nodulating varieties made it possible for smallholders to participate. By 1990, almost 40,000 smallholder farmers were producing soybean, mostly for sale to the one solvent-extraction parastatal company, but with some retention as food for the household.

APROMA (Association des Produits a Marche CEE/ACP, 52, Avenue Louis Lepoutre B-1060 Bruxelles, Belgique), a promotional arm of the European Union, began to show interest in soybeans in the early 90's, especially in relation to Southern Africa, and sponsored two regional meetings of agricultural scientists, economists, nutritionists, and marketers (APROMA. 1993, APROMA 1995).

APROMA funded a process to establish a data base on soyabean production, to be hosted by the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (Commercial Oilseed Producers Association (COPA), 7th Floor Agriculture House, 113 Leopold Takawira Street, PO Box 592, Harare, Zimbabwe). The intention was to begin with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, to add data from other countries as their soybean production rose, and to serve as a common source for the prediction of surplus and deficit countries, and thus serve as a tool for increasing inter-country trade in soybeans.

Case study on Kenya

Kenya has depended on locally hydrogenated fats from imported palm oil, at a cost of USD 60 million annually for 80 percentage of its vegetable oils and fats. Recognising that substantial imports of the oilseed meals required for dairy, poultry and pig feeds for its meat industries added to the size of the import bill, and kept local farmers from economic participation in this sub-sector, a GTZ/Government of Kenya project was initiated in the early 90s to promote soybean growing. Farmer-adoption of the new crop was inhibited by the lack of knowledge of home preparation of this potential food source yielding surplus quantities which could be sold to the three large scale industries which had solvent extraction capability. The project encouraged national extension agencies to train householders in home preparation, is championing the formation of the Kenya Soybean Association (KESA), and the use of the crop in child-feeding interventions (GTZ Soybean Project, PO Box 41607, Nairobi, Kenya).

The International Soybean Centre (INTSOY, University of Illinois, 169 Environmental and Agricultural Sciences Building, 1101 West Peabody Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, USA) is promoting the development of soybean products, and providing an invaluable repository of knowledge and teaching about soybean utilisation. INTSOY has had frequent and helpful technical linkages to the work in Nigeria, Zambia and Kenya.

1.6 Consumer preferences

Farmers of oilseeds want maximum income from the sale of their surplus crop. Their main customers, oilseed crushers, want maximum oil extraction per kg of oilseed bought. In few countries, at this time, are there well established standards of farmgate payment to the farmer by oil content, in part because a quick tool for establishing oil content does not yet exist.

Users of cooking oil face a different problem. Pure oils from sesame, sunflower, Niger seed have different "boiling point" temperatures, at which the oil begins to smoke or vaporise. Cooking time varies for each type of oil Thus, these pure oils are not easily substituted one for the other without adaptations to cooking times.


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