Bidco to establish palm oil factory in Western Kenya

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023 01:45 | By
Bidco Africa Ltd.
Bidco Africa Ltd. PHOTO/Courtesy

Western Kenya is poised to be Kenya’s source of palm oil which could spare the country the agony of spending Sh120 billion yearly on edible oil imports.

Bidco Africa, one of the leading consumer goods companies on the African continent, has embarked on a project to establish a processing factory in the region in a move that will see the country begin palm oil production.

The strategic initiative is set to not only transform the lives of local farmers but also have a notable impact on the cooking oil market in the country by scaling the company’s success in Uganda’s Kalangala regions. “We believe the lessons coming out of Uganda are applicable in Kenya,” said Bidco Managing Director for Africa, Baker Magunda. Already Homa Bay is one the first counties to welcome the project which is set to change the lives of farmers as well as impact on the prices of cooking oil in the country.

“What we are looking at is industrialisation, we are looking for jobs for our young people. Edible oils is a big value chain for the national government and for us as a county and for people of Homa Bay,” said Gladys Wanga, the county governor.

Poverty levels

“We are looking at our poverty levels, the per capita income of Homa Bay is about Sh99,000 a year, we want to raise this to about Sh500,000 a year,” Wanga told Citizen TV. Homa Bay, Migori and other counties along Lake Victoria region are expected to benefit from the rollout of the project. For instance, farmers in Budalangi are among those who have been growing palm trees.

The move by Bidco comes a time when the edible oil industry players in Kenya have had a spat with the government over its decision to import refined edible oil through the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC). Trade Cabinet Secretary went into an all-out war with sections of the media over press revelations detailing how companies owned by people with links to the government were single-sourced to procure edible oils through the Corporation.

Palm Oil Plant is majorly grown for Palm oil which is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms. Palm oil is naturally reddish in colour because of high beta-carotene content. Palm oil is used in the production of almost half of all products sold in supermarkets globally, according to WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), the global environment campaign.

Homabay County, located in the western part of the nation, is among the first devolved units to embrace the Bidco Africa palm oil project. The county’s leadership has shown strong support for the initiative, recognising the potential to create a positive ripple effect on the local economy.

By partnering with Bidco Africa, local farmers will not only find a reliable buyer for their palm oil produce but also gain access to advanced agricultural practices and technologies, thereby increasing their overall yields and income.

The introduction of a dedicated palm oil processing factory is expected to address several challenges that have long hindered the palm oil industry in the country.

Previously, local farmers faced difficulties in finding suitable markets for their produce, leading to potential income losses and discouraging further cultivation efforts. Bidco Africa’s involvement promises a stable and lucrative market for these farmers, thereby incentivising increased production and contributing to the growth of the agricultural sector.

Furthermore, the project is anticipated to have a significant impact on the local cooking oil market. Currently, a significant portion of the country’s cooking oil demand is met through imports, which can lead to fluctuations in prices due to international market dynamics.

Cooking oil

By boosting domestic palm oil production, Bidco aims to mitigate the reliance on imports and stabilise the prices of cooking oil in the country. This move aligns with the broader goal of enhancing food security and reducing the nation’s trade deficit.

The Bidco Africa palm oil project underscores the company’s commitment to sustainable business practices and social responsibility. By investing in local agriculture and partnering with farmers, the company is not only securing a steady supply of raw materials but also contributing to the empowerment of rural communities.

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