Palm oil is a staple ingredient used across Rwanda and Africa, serving as an essential ingredient in popular dishes like Nigerian jolif rice and Ivorian sticky alloco plantains. Africa consumes significantly more palm oil than it produces, importing nearly 8 million tons of palm oil in 2020 to meet demand. What was once one of the cheaper cooking oils, is now rivaling other oils like sunflower and soy with prices continuing to rise due to food system shocks like supply chain challenges and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This volatility in availability and price puts a spotlight on the challenges of depending on imported cooking oil and emphasizes the need to increase Africa’s own production capacity.
Cooperative Le Palmier based in Kigali, Rwanda is helping ensure African consumers have access to affordable and safe palm oil. Established in 2015, Cooperative Le Palmier produces refined palm oil and sells it to supermarkets in the city as well as local rural markets. “In order to meet the growing demand for cooking oil across Africa, we needed assistance in improving our operations and the safety of our products,” said Mr. Rumiya Kamari, managing director of Cooperative Le Palmier. “Partnering with PFS gave us access to the right experts to do that.”
Yenny Lizarazo, a food safety and quality supervisor, has been working at Cargill for five years and is responsible for ensuring that products that leave the plants meet the food safety standards required by its customers. “My main motivation for volunteering with PFS is to gain an experience that allows me to do something different from my daily work and help others,” said Yenny. “Working with Cooperative Le Palmier gave me the opportunity to learn about oil production. And although the regulations are similar, there were some differences so I had to learn about their processes specifically, which was a fun learning experience for me.”
By working together, Yenny and Cooperative Le Palmier have been able to put together the necessary documentation needed to do fortification of Cooperative Le Palmier’s palm oil and have improved its operations and the safety of its product. “As most of our staff are not skilled enough in GMP and quality control, Yenny has been a great resource with her expertise and experience in developing different documentation which is currently being used in our operations,” said Mr. Rumiya. “We now have a better understanding of the food processing framework compared to before and believe this is a strong base for growth.”