By Babatunde Jimoh
Major palm oil producers in the country have urged the federal government not to yield to the request of some foreign companies operating in the country to import crude oil palm into the country under the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) as this will lead to dumping of palm oil in Nigeria.
Speaking on behalf of the Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON); National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN) and Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), in Lagos during the week, Mr. Emmanuel Ibru, the Chairman, Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria, POFON, said they have received with shock the clamour by a company that has refused to invest in the Nigerian oil palm value chain to import 95,000 MT of crude palm oil, 50,000 MT of Stearin in bulk, 60,000MT of Crude Palm Olein and 50,000MT of Palm Fatty Acid Distillates under the West African Trade Liberalization Scheme(ETLS).
ETLS is the main ECOWAS operational tool for promoting the West Africa region as a Free Trade Area.
He said acceding to the request is tantamount to economic sabotage, adding that any attempt or plot to import refined products amounts to smuggling, “because refined vegetable oil products remain on the import prohibition list.”
Ibru said: “It is in this light that we see the ongoing plot by the company as an attempt to procure official stamp to smuggling and commit economic crime against Nigeria.”
He disclosed that the current tariff regime of 35 percent (10 percent duty and 25 percent levy) on importation of palm oil and the inclusion of palm oil in the list of commodities that do not qualify for CBN FOREX allocation have been protective of the industry and at the same time the stimulant and tonic for growth.
“It has brought about phenomenal growth as witnessed in new plantings and processing capacities across the country. Moribund oil palm plantations have bounced back in production and smallholder planting has spread far beyond the traditional oil palm belt to now include the fringe states like Kogi, Kaduna and Nasarawa states.”
Consequently, he urged the government to remain steadfast in sustaining the policies in the face of mounting pressure from speculators and rent seekers in the industry.
Also speaking during the meeting, Mr. Fatai Afolabi disclosed that all available statistics point to the fact that the Crude Palm Oil (CPO) export data recorded for some West African countries are actually exported into Nigeria from CPO that were imported into those countries.
“ In essence, these West African countries are transit points for CPO destined for Nigeria. By so doing, these countries earn their own duty, whilst they and the Nigerian importers deny Nigeria from earning revenue. This should not be allowed to continue and we say a big no to ETLS crime.”
He added that the ETLS antics some of the companies operating in Nigeria is an indirect way of applying for waivers to import CPO and prohibited items, “which government has said several times that import waivers will not be granted and we pray that this resolve be maintained.”