Zimbabwe’s quest to unlock the $2 billion potential in sunflower and groundnut production took a massive stride following the official launch of the project to 300 small holder farmers in Gokwe.

Ennet Gosha is among the small holder farmers in Gokwe who dumped sunflower farming more than a decade ago in favour of cotton and tobacco, crops considered as lucrative in the agricultural sector.

The absence of a ready market and a shift of focus by local cooking oil manufacturers who opted for cotton seeds, groundnuts and soyabeans ahead of sunflower added to the demise of the crop which took a massive dip in hectarage to below 30 000 hectares.

At its peak, sunflower farming sustained livelihoods for small holder farmers in this area, and they still hold hope that a return of a production system of the crop, presents massive opportunities to supplement incomes from cotton sales.

The first stride to revitalising sunflower production was implemented by the Oil Seed Association of Zimbabwe yesterday (Thursday) in Gokwe under a programme targeted to grow the crop over 30 000 hectares nationwide this season.

Given that sunflowers have a short period to harvest, achieved within four months, farmers have a chance to grow the crop four times a year and still find a ready market.

Faced with an unsustainable import bill on crude oil, the country’s  hope to cover this deficit lies in massive support of this project as  sunflower has a better ratio for oil at 50 percent compared to soya bean which has an oil output of just 20 percent with the rest of the bye-products going to stock feed.