“Growing Abia Economy through Agriculture” was the theme of the event of 2 million special species of oil palm seedlings to farmers in Abia State held on Thursday, May 3, 2018, at Ahiaba Umueze in Osisioma LGA.
The Abia State Deputy Governor, Rt Hon.Ude Oko Chukwu flagged off the event.
Arrangements have also been concluded for each of the 17 local government areas in the state to further receive another set of 40,000 of the seedlings which would in turn be made available for farmers in the LGAs.
Abia State Government under the leadership of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu understands the importance of palm oil not only to the State’s economy but also to that of Nigeria.
The red palm oil is a common ingredient in the cooking of almost every type of food in Nigeria and beyond. Processing the crop into vegetable oil is a common practice by the people. Soap, cream, biodiesel etc are all important products from oil palm.
Abia State having successfully nurtured about 4 million palm seedlings in the State is leading the revitalization of this all important agricultural sector through massive investments in oil palm. The Government plans to increase this Special tenera specie of palm seedlings at Ahiaba Umueze in Osisioma LGA of the State to 7.5 million.
With what is already on ground, Abia, no doubt, is on a flight to becoming a major exporter of palm oil in the country. It is believed that with the success recorded so far, investors would be attracted which will in turn lead to massive acquisition of modern processing plants as against manual processing techniques currently in use by most oil palm farmers.
Revitalizing the old Abia palm and establishing new ones are very necessary for the possible expansion of oil palm plantations in the State.Local authorities, particularly at the LGAs and autonomous communities should also provide land for oil palm farming to encourage mass production of the crop.
The State’s initiative and aggressive pursuit of oil palm cultivation will certainly lead to increase in job creation in the agriculture and its allied sectors. It will also improve revenue for the State as well as GDP of the Country.
Individual farmers will also have access to this special specie that takes about three years to develop bunches ranging from about 9- 16 bunches at a time.
After understudying what the State is doing in agriculture, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe could not hide his admiration over what he saw when he came for the launch of the ‘Change Begins with Me’ initiative of the Federal Government at the newly constructed International Conference Center in the State.
Chief Ogbe said that himself and the Governor have similarities based on their interest in Agriculture. According to him, what he saw in Abia State shows there is hope for the country. No wonder his Health counterpart Prof.Adewale applied and got over 10,000 palm seedlings all the way from Abuja.
The good news is, Abia State is leading the revolution.
The State considers oil palm in Nigeria as a way of life. To some people, planting palm is part of their culture. Before the nation slid into importers of palm oil, Nigeria was doing well in palm production in the 80s when oil palm accounted for over 40% of our production.
Nigeria and Africa used to be the hub of palm oil production. Nigeria Started early to export palm kernels in thousands of tonnes to other African Countries until the British administration took the plant to Malaysia. In 1934, Malaysia that took delivery of our plants, surpassed us to become the largest exporter of the product.
Experts have attributed some of the failures on the part of the nation to maintain the lead in exportation of palm products to the use of manual processing techniques non-availability of land due to the widely practiced land tenure system.
While one can hardly fault these lines of thought, one may also want to add that failure of the government to always build on the gains of Agriculture in the past led to a total neglect of this line of development.
Government failure to implement and or encourage private investors to embark on large scale plantations also contributed in no small measure to the failure of palm oil production in the country. One can go ahead to include lack of funding, official laziness and misplacement of priorities on the part of government.
Fortunately for Abians, this is where Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is getting it all right. Certainly, the glorious days are back!
It is not true that government cannot manage plantation estates as some would want to argue because, according to them, corruption will always creep in. However, with the way things are being done in Abia State under Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, transparency, orderliness and accountability have since taken the centre stage and the agricultural sector is booming again.
The country has realized her mistakes of neglecting oil palm production. Nigeria needs to bounce back and Abia is spearheading this agenda.
Nwanne Ikwuola Nkwu?
By Ikechukwu Iroha
Ikechukwu Iroha wrote in from Umuahia, Abia State