Stakeholders in the oil palm sector have called for a paradigm shift from crude to palm oil toward meeting Nigeria’s quest for economic diversification. They made the call at the oil palm stakeholders’ forum under the aegis of National Initiatives for Sustainable and Climate Smart Oil Palm Small Holders (NISCOPS) in West Africa. The event was organised by Solidaridad, a Non-Governmental Organisation and supported by the Kingdom of Netherlands. Dr Rowland Okoli, Lecturer, Political Science and International Relations, Godfrey Okoye University Enugu, said the global oil palm market which currently worths over 62 billion dollars annually underscores the commodity’s economic significance and multiple utility.
Okoli said that the multiple utility and economic significance of palm oil both in the home and industries explains this growth in its global market size. He noted that palm oil production has the capacity to lift millions of rural poor out of poverty and contribute to attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Okoli said that Nigeria is currently the biggest loser in palm oil business. “The country is unable to provide adequate quantity required domestically, she loses foreign exchange as a result of importation of oil and loses potential revenue that would have been earned if vast area of land was to be utilised in sustainable ways,’’ he said. Okoli, however, emphasised the need to empowering smallholder farmers, saying that they remain players in the oil palm sector. Empowering smallholder farmers would translate to pro-poor strategy that would lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty in line with Federal Government’s plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
“80 per cent of the production come from pockets of smallholders who use manual processing techniques and depend on inherited, naturally or wild growing palm plants. While output outpaces consumption globally, the reverse is the case in Nigeria. This suggests that we are losers in the global palm oil value chain and overall business. Nigeria spends over 500 million dollars in importation of oil annually. This translates to losses in foreign exchange,’’ Okoli said. He said that the cost benefit analysis shows that while the global price per litre of crude oil is 0.44 dollars or 150 naira, palm oil is 0.50 dollars or 170 naira per litre. “Domestic price per litre of petrol is between 143 naira and 145 naira excluding subsidy, kerosene between 200 naira and 250 naira while palm oil is between 300 naira and 350 naira,’’ Okoli said. On his part, Mr Kene Onukwube, Cordinator of the NGO, said that industry and population growth are involved in the demand for palm oil.
“Oil palm is used in many countries for the production of consumer goods in the industries for the increasing domestic population and export to other countries. The situation in Africa particularly, Nigeria raises serious concern as 90 per cent of oil palm produced in Africa ends in food products while only 10 per cent is used in industries. Despite the vast land area and growing population in Africa, the region lags behind in production and consumption of palm oil. This is the reverse of what is obtained globally,’’ Onukwube said. Dr Stella Adejoh, called for the mainstreaming of women and vulnerable groups in the entire aspect of oil palm production process in the country.
Mr Hilary Uche, the National President of Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria solicited Federal Government’s assistance in providing the oil palm growers equipment that would boost production. He said that the major challenge facing oil palm production in the country is dearth of machines for oil processing. “The difference between these big firms and small holders is the processing system, they have the machines that can harvest and process in day but we don’t have it. It is just two major machines, the oil palm bunch sterilizer and bunch stripper, most of the small farmers have the presser but they don’t have the other two equipment. If government can procure these equipment for us, it will go a long way to make rural farmers to produce the Special Palm Oil (SPO) which is the correct oil in the standard market,’’ Uche said.