Efforts to expand commercial oil palm production beyond Kalangala and Buvuma Islands to new districts have peaked up. In September 2022, the National Oil Palm Project (NOPP) initiated suitability studies in seven districts of northern Uganda. Oil palm adaptability trials were established in Nwoya, Apac, Dokolo, Adjuman, Moyo, Arua and Zombo Districts to assess the potential of these areas for commercial production.
Researchers first established suitability trials in 2016 in Amuru, Gulu and Omoro districts with materials locally sourced from Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL). The new districts have however been planted with 5 elite varieties introduced from Palmelit Benin. Some of the introduced varieties are resistant to the notorious Fusarium Wilt (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Elaeidis), are high yielding in fresh fruit bunch (FFB), and oil content. Others are drought Ganoderma tolerant. All these materials are high yielding in fresh fruit bunch (FFB), and oil extration rate (OER). This brings the total number of acreage under adaptability trials from 3 to 26 acres.
According to Alex Asiimwe, the Oil Palm Agronomist at NaCRRI, opening up new areas to oil palm will increase local production. “We want to expand so that we increase local production of vegetable oil for import substitution to make it cheaper and available for all Ugandans,” Asiimwe says.
The FAO recommended per capita oil consumption is 15Kg of oil per person per year. The per capita consumption in Uganda is estimated at about 10kg which is lower than recommended by World Health Organization. In addition, the country mainly depends on imported oil from Asia. Currently Uganda imports about 80% of its vegetable oil requirement; mainly palm oil and its derivatives. In 2020, Uganda imported 381,320MT, of vegetable oils, worth USD 289.8 million, of which palm oil accounted for 97% of the quantity imported, valued USD 271.7 million (93.75%). (Source: International Trade Center).
The government’s goal to expand oil palm production from the current 11,484ha by additional 17,000ha by 2023. Government’s expansion plans for oil palm production aim to meet the ever-increasing demand of vegetable oil and its products.
Since it was introduction in Uganda decades ago, oil palm has only been commercially produced in Kalangala. Adaptive oil palm research revealed that a yield potential of 17MT/Ha/Year is attainable within the Lake Victoria Crescent. This ignited commercial production of oil palm on 10,463ha at Bugala Island in Kalangala. Under this production, 280,000 MT of crude oil are currently produced annually to reduce on the domestic vegetable oil demand.
The trials established in Amuru, Gulu and Omoro are currently approaching their second harvest thus increasing prospective areas for oil palm production in the near future.