HomeFEATURED ARTICLEFarmer strikes cooking oil in sunflower seeds

Farmer strikes cooking oil in sunflower seeds

In a tiny congested room, at Gwa Kung’u centre in the interior of Nyandarua County, a big dream is simmering. A dream to feed Kenyans on pure natural oil, free from additives and chemicals, while assuring them a healthy heart.

Sacks of various seeds lie on the floor and three machines that have seen tear and wear as a result of too much work, stand in one corner ready to crush and squeeze oil from the seeds. “There is need for farmers to embrace sunflower growing as a cash crop,” bursts Gideon Kariuki who has been practicing sunflower farming for a decade now and has set his own sunflower processing factory.

His main raw materials for oil production are the sun flower seeds though he has had to employ kale seeds and groundnuts which the machine can grind and purify to produce oil. “Apart from sunflower seeds and kales, I am experimenting on grinding seeds from other crops to form oil,” Kariuki said.

After eliminating chuff, he pours the clean and dry sunflower seeds into a high power driven electronic grinder. The machine then crushes the seeds, separating the crude oil from sunflower cake.

The crude oil, usually black in colour, is then put in a pressure machine that purifies it to golden smooth flowing liquid that is ready for packaging and use. “I trade under the name Ndeka Virgin with the sunflower product labeled as sunflower oil, which I package in quantities ranging from 250ml to five litres. I sell a litre for Sh. 300.”


In order to have a litre of the oil, he notes, between two and two and a half kilos of sunflower seed are required depending on the seed quality.

He gestures at separate sacks in his store with a variety of sunflower seeds, which he recently harvested from his farm and those that he has bought from farmers.

“These white sunflower seeds have a large peel therefore they yield little amount of oil unlike the black ones which yield more because of their thin peeling. I prefer the black variety for milling,” he says.

 “I also sell sunflower seeds to my customers at Sh. 30 a kilogramme. When buying seeds from customers it varies with the variety of seeds the customer has, with the white peeled attracting Sh. 20 while the black one go for Sh. 25 per kg,” said Kariuki.

The oil can be used for cooking or taken directly as a medicine for people suffering from ulcers, pressure and arthritis, booster for men or for women with irregular menstrual cycle.

Mr. Kariuki who seals the oil cans at his factory, also trades the kale oil with the label ‘Canola’ which sells for Sh. 350 a litre.

“Kale oil is more expensive since it has Omega three which is mainly found in fish,” adds the devoted user who from time to time sips his products to test their suitability. The father of three adds that since he started planting and processing sunflower, the business has helped him earn a living for him and his family members.

“There is need for farmers to embrace sunflower growing as a cash crop,” bursts Gideon Kariuki who has been practicing sunflower farming for a decade now and has set his own sunflower processing factory.

Production is informed by orders from customers which he either sources himself or customers place orders. “My distribution network is still here within Nyandarua and Laikipia Counties but I hope to grow it to other parts of the country,” he adds.

After the processing there are other by-products like the sunflower cake which he sells to farmers as animal and poultry feeds.

“When processing I put the solid by-products in sacks which farmers only require to smash into small pieces for chicken or mix with molasses for their cows.”

Processing challenges

As he rallies his neighbours in the semi-arid parts of Nyandarua to embrace this farming, Kariuki tells us that sunflower is planted like other seeds spaced for better yields. “There are several varieties that do well here in Nyandarua. 89, 98 and Kenya feather prefer the warm climate here in Ndaragwa Constituency and only take three months to mature. The crop does not require lots of labour and need less maintenance in terms of pesticides,” he notes.

Shortage of sunflower seeds in the area, he says, has driven him to new markets in Uganda and the western region at times.

On processing challenges, he says he has had to contend with the current smaller brand but notes that there are other big machines available in the market but he requires financial might to purchase them.

“There are digital machines available in the market of which I cannot afford. Supermarkets require one ton of sunflower oil per month, and if only I have a larger machine for grinding, I can meet the orders from supermarket and customers, but am afraid to lose my customers since I cannot meet both requirements,” he observes.


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