BY DANIEL GUMM
THE Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria, POFON has cautioned the Federal Government to be wary of some companies in Nigeria, which have begun trading in imported Crude Palm Oil, CPO, explaining that it had informed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development about the threat that mass importation and dumping of CPO poses to the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, ATA of government.
POFON also warned that any attempt to make the oil palm upstream value chain vulnerable would jeopardise the ATA, pointing out that there should be urgent government intervention, else, the country would stand to lose, when “CPO cabals emerge to take control and perpetuate the importation of palm oil in Nigeria.”
POFON in a communque, signed by its Executive Secretary, Fatai A. Afolabi, siad that after an extra-ordinary meeting at Presco Plc, Obaretin Estate, Edo State to deliberate on critical national issues relating to the oil palm industry, namely: Collapse of the domestic palm oil market and suurvival options; and the way forward, noted that from the January 2013 level, the local CPO prices have dropped by 25-30 per cent in May 2013.
“Presently, prices are at incredibly low levels, thus threatening the profitability of oil palm businesses at both large scale and small-holder levels.”
The highlights of the Edo State meeting were: Downward slide in CPO prices, rising importation of CPO, concession and waivers, tariff reduction, as well as abuse of ETLS.
The plantation ownwers noted that they are disturbed by reports of concession and waivers being granted to traders to import CPO and refined products in spite of the 35 per cent tariff and the ban on respective commodities and in flagrant disregards to the assurances given by Mr. President in his budget speech not to grant concession and waivers to import commodities that we have the capacity to produce in Nigeria.
But some government agencies have been implicated in granting concession and waivers to CPO importers. This practice, according to POFON, undermines the ATA of this administration. POFON demands that it be stopped forthwith.
POFON has also noted with concern the purported rising imports of CPO from neighboring West African countries under ETLS. “Verifiable statistics have shown that our sub-regional neighbors including Ghana, Republic of Benin, Togo and Cote D’Ivoire are net importers of CPO. The rising importation of CPO from these countries into Nigeria under ETLS is therefore questionable.” POFON therefore calls on government to investigate purported ETLS imports with a view to identifying the abuses that are associated with ETLS.
POFON said that it has being following the recent argument and clamour, from manufacturers to reduce CPO tariff from 35 per cent to 5%. “We have also found most absurd the proposal made to government to give concession to companies, which can show evidence of owning minimum 2,000 hectares oil palm plantation to import CPO.”
“There is substantial evidence to show that this kind of proposal was made out of confusion and desperation to clear the way for dumping cheap and low quality CPO into the country. POFON indisputably declares that no genuine plantation owner is interested to import CPO under any guise into the country and as such says an emphatic “No” to tariff reduction.
“The contemporary agricultural transformation agenda (ATA) emphasises the value chain approach to agricultural development. For the oil palm value chain, it presupposes that both the upstream and downstream of the value chain are complementary of each other.
“POFON therefore finds the existing arrangement incongruent and inimical to ATA; where the downstream value chain enjoys extreme protection of imports ban, while the upstream value chain is protected with 35 per cent tariff,” it stressed.
POFON listed the varioua projects by its members and called on the Federal Government to provide enabling environment, necessary infrastructure and incentives to take Nigeria’s oil palm industry to global competitiveness.