Farmers living in coastal Bangladesh have always found it difficult to grow oil seed crops because of the soil’s high salinity. Instead, they buy cooking oils for use at home. Following Cyclone Sidr in 2007, many farmers in coastal districts of Bangladesh were given sunflower seeds to plant because these seeds required lower inputs, grew well, could be profitable in saline areas, and were drought tolerant.
Despite a growing consumer demand for low cholesterol oils in the last five years, the processing and marketing of sunflower oil remains difficult. A limited availability of sunflower seeds only further constricts the industry. These low levels of production have created market disincentives for both seed companies and processing firms.
To remedy this, the Feed the Future Bangladesh Rice and Diversified Crops Activity (RDC) has identified business partners to help overcome these challenges through transformational business relationships.
Northern Consumer Products Limited (NCPL) is taking a lead role in developing the sunflower oil industry with plans to become Bangladesh’s largest supplier. The company invested in an oil mill for processing, and their product aims to be the first sunflower oil sold in Dhaka supermarkets that comes from Bengali farmers.
NCPL also signed an agreement with the RDC activity to establish production and marketing groups among farmers in the Patuakhali and Barguna districts of coastal Bangladesh from whom they will buy sunflowers for processing.
The agreement will ensure that a sustainable and robust market for sunflowers exists. Both male and female sunflower farmers will gain the skills they need to be competitive in Bangladesh’s oil seed market. And institutional buyers of sunflowers will develop more competitive and inclusive purchasing channels for sourcing agricultural products as a result.
To address the challenge of low seed availability, RDC staff brought together oil processing companies, seed companies, and seed retailers. They identified not only the constraints, but also the potential for growth in the sunflower industry and set up networking events for market actors. This led to NCPL and BRAC Seeds reaching a deal to stock BRAC Seeds retailers with sunflower seeds, and for NCPL to direct farmers they work with to buy seeds from those retailers.
Facilitating these long-lasting links between market actors is how RDC helps create systemic market changes that are inclusive of farmers in the Bangladesh Feed the Future Zone.