S/East, South-South governors boost oil palm farming

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GOVERNORS of  South East and South-South states have agreed to provide at least 100,000 hectares each for large scale oil palm farming as importation of palm oil gulps over 500 million dollars. 

At a meeting on the Palm Oil Value Chain in Abuja, Monday, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele told stakeholders that it was a sad that the country still imports palm oil in spite of the outlay of arable land in the South-South and South-East regions of the country to farm it.

Emefiele told the stakeholders at the meeting, attended by governors of Akwa Ibom, Edo and Abia states, the managers of Dangote Farms, Flour mills, United Food Industries and Dufil Frima Foods Plc, that in the late 50’s and 60’s, Nigeria was the world’s leading producer and the largest exporter of palm oil, which accounted for close to 40 per cent of the global market share.

Malaysia and Indonesia are the top producers of palm oil, after they got their seeds and learnt how to cultivate oil palm from Nigeria.

Said the CBN governor: “This conversation is indeed important as it forms part of our overall strategy to reduce our reliance on crude oil imports, diversify the productive base of our economy, create jobs and conserve our foreign exchange.

“Despite placing oil palm in the forex exclusion list, official figures indicate that importation of palm oil had declined by about 40 per cent from the peak of 506,000 Metric Tonnes (MTs) in 2014 to 302,000 MTs in 2017.

“This indicates that Nigeria still expends close to 500 million dollars on oil palm importation annually and we are determined to change this narrative.

“We intend to support improved production of palm oil to meet not only the domestic needs of the market, but to also increase our exports in order to improve our forex earnings.”

Emefiele said that with the help of the South East and South South governors, Nigeria could reach self-sufficiency in palm oil between 2022 and 2024 and ultimately overtake Thailand and Columbia to become the third largest producer (after Malaysia and Indonesia) over the next few years.

“The CBN will work with large corporate stakeholders and small holder farmers to ensure availability of quality seeds for this year’s planting season.

“We will ensure the availability of agro-chemicals in order to enable improved cultivation of palm oil.

The CBN governor said that in due course, the CBN would introduce polices to address challenges in the cocoa, cassava, beef/cattle ranching, dairy and fish sectors. 

”These efforts will not only enable us to conserve foreign exchange, but also create jobs on a mass scale and as these measures begin to bear fruits, we are very optimistic that our states will become more economically viable,” he said.

The Edo governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, called for the revival of the moribund Nigerian Institute For Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) in Benin to improve investment in research and production of quality oil palm seeds.

He noted that for investment to come into the oil palm industry, incentives must be in place to encourage manufacturers to turn oil palm to other things,” he said.

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