Oil Palm industry deserves more attention for greater productivity — Iyang

By Gabriel Ewepu

The National President of National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria, NPPAN, Alphonsus Iyang, in this interview explained why the palm oil industry needs serious attention to strategically position it to compete favourably in the global market.


Can you tell us about the National Association of Palm Produce Association of Nigeria?

The National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria was founded in the early 80s but registered as an association in 1995 as the second commodity association after the cocoa association of Nigeria.

The association is the umbrella body of smallholder farmers, processors, research institutes, licensed buying agents, seedlings developers, merchants, and exporters of Palm Oil, Palm kernel, Palm kernel Oil, and cake and all allied products along the value chain.

Our current strength of registered membership is 286,998 across 24 states with a comparative advantage in the value chain.

What is the importance of palm produce in agric sub-sector of the economy?

The importance of Oil Palm is not only to agriculture but to the economy, lives, and livelihoods.

READ ALSO: Oil Palm Devt: NPPAN demands establishment of Nigeria Oil Palm Development Council

The role Oil Palm plays in many economies in the world especially Asia is very prominent and germane to industrialization and development.

In the days before the advent of Crude Oil Oil Palm was the major source of revenue for the old Eastern Region and Mid West which now comprises 11 states of the South-South and South East. These states had no other thing to bring to the national economic table aside revenue oil palm and all the developments that took place in these regions were from oil palm products. Then we had Palm Produce Boards and Marketing Boards that handled this very important sector.

Then scholarship was given to deserving sons and daughters of these regions to study overseas but now none of these states can sponsor students on overseas scholarship again because oil palm has been neglected.

Oil palm contributes about three per cent to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of Indonesia and 2.8 per cent to that of Malaysia and it remains the major export product of these two countries to 160 countries of the world, intact oil palm is the second largest contributor to the economy of Indonesia and fourth-largest in Malaysia.

Indonesia has 12 million hectares in cultivation, Malaysia 6 million while Nigeria has just over 1 million yet the first oil palm kernel was taken from Nigeria in a small village called Ibesit, in present-day Akwa Ibom State in the 50s by Malaysia.

Oil palm is used in the production of butter, cheese, pharmaceuticals, soap, body creams, lipsticks, different cosmetics products, confectionery, bread, domestic consumption, etc and it can sustain the economy of a country just it’s done in Indonesia and Malaysia.

And Oil Palm try has the potential to produce for 70 years. Its economic potentials are enormous and Nigeria needs to wake up.

Oil palm is like the biblical tree of life.

I have not seen a crude oil well that can produce for 50 years but an oil palm try produces for 70 years.

What is the potential of palm produce in terms of foreign exchange and what impact that can make on the economy?

If the federal and state governments can work with our association to implement our very ambitious plan of developing 250,000 hectares per year between 2020 and 2030 we can be able to meet local consumption and conserve foreign exchange of over $1 billion per year.

One hectare of oil palm creates at least five jobs down the value chain and this will mean a creation of direct 1,250,000 productive jobs per year, not just mere salary earning jobs.

And this will happen in the rural communities among women and youth where the effect of poverty is felt most. Nutrition lives and livelihoods will improve just as the economy prospers.

Right now we produce just about 25 per cent of what we consume so we need to close the gap first before we talk of export.

We can’t even talk of export now because currently, Nigeria’s Palm Oil is the most expensive in the world due to high cost of production and high local demand with this you see that we cannot compete in the international market place.

 What is attractive about palm produce business to young Nigerians and investors?

The attraction to young people is that an oil palm plantation can sustain the economic condition of a family for up to four generations and that means it can serve as a  trans-generational business empire taking care of education, medical, and every other need of a 20th-century family.

Another attraction is that it can be started with a low capital outlay of as low as 100,000 depending on which part of the value chain you want to play.

Thirdly, the market for the product is readily available, you don’t need to go far to look for the market for palm oil or any bye products.

What is the volume of jobs created by palm produce?

Currently, NPPAN is in partnership with the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) on the training of our members on Good Agricultural Practice, nursery development, plantation management dynamics, cluster development, capacity development, etc. All these are to expose our members who are mostly smallholders to modern and environment smart methods of oil palm business.

Can you tell Nigerians what your association has achieved so far?

Also, our association has been wooing local investors to invest in the Oil Palm Sector as a way of diversifying their portfolios and creating jobs.

A few months ago I was in the delegation of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment to Bremen, Germany where our association was able to attract investment into the sector through the Africa Investment program of the German Government and currently engagements are going on with other German investors on the right model of investment which have been slowed down by this novel pandemic.

We have also entered into an agreement with some state governments to access the CBN development fund for Oil Palm.

We hereby call on state governments in the oil palm producing states to come up and partner with NPPAN in this aspect. We’re ready to make our wealth of experience available to any interested state.

This year we are setting up 12 hybrid nurseries for oil palm in 12 States to prepare seedlings for 2021 planting season and we are calling on state governments to partner with us. This is to guarantee the availability of quality planting materials for our farmers.

What is the role of government in adding value to your association’s activities and taking it to the next level based on your relationship, partnership, and synergy?

There is a fund in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, we are told is dedicated to Oil Palm Development and we want to plead with the CBN to make it available to smallholder farmers so that our members can benefit otherwise the oil majors who are largely foreign-owned who has all the collateral to place will access this money and end up turning our farmers to slaves in their country.

The current Minister of Agriculture being a practicing farmer has shown a commitment to developing the Oil Palm Sector and we’re solidly behind him in his efforts.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture is currently engaging with us and we’re happy to report that they have plans for equipment for processing and implements too.

We plead with the National Assembly to look into the idea of the Nigerian Oil Palm Development Council Bill.

What has been your members’ experience in terms of accessing incentives like loans, waivers, taxes, policies?

Our members are largely smallholder farmers and don’t have the kind of collateral CBN intervention funds demand. We are pleading with the CBN to engage with us so that we can jointly come out with a practicable, workable, and economically beneficial model to lift the country.

Our association is a long-standing association second only to the Cocoa Association of Nigeria and has tremendous integrity and clout to guarantee our members to secure CBN funds hence we plead with the CBN to listen to us.

So far the funds have only been accessed by Oil Majors in the industry.

Oil palm is not like any crop that has a short gestation period, it takes up to four years for a Palm tree to produce commercially and for seventy years so an oil palm plantation can serve as collateral on its own as the farmer cannot run away from the plantation.

Once CBN gives us the opportunity we can work together to develop a Nigerian model.

In the area of waivers and incentives, we want to plead with the federal government to look into the issue of the 25 per cent surcharge from Oil Palm imports and make it available to the industry for backward integration.

What is your relationship with Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service in terms of export-related issues?

We are not promoting export now because of the landing cost of our products in Europe currently stands at around 10 per cent above the competition.

What is your relationship with Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service in terms of export-related issues?

Lack of National Policy on oil palm development, which can be done through Nigeria Oil Palm Development Council just like we have the Sugar Development Council, and the recently passed Rice Development Council, and we lack cooperation from state governments in the issue of land resource, and others.

READ ALSO: Oil Palm: Delta Govt. trains agric extension officers on best practice

What are your demands as an association, and when and how do you want them to be addressed and what is your message to the Government and donor organisations?

We demand a Natural Oil Palm Development Council Bill, release of all surcharges earned by the Federal Government from Palm Produce imports, allocation of at least 100,000 hectares each from the 24 states with a comparative advantage in Oil Palm production, policy to replace all ornamental and uneconomical trees in the country for the purpose of environmental conservation, increased funding by the federal government to NIFOR to enable them to produce more seedlings for our farmers, end to the smuggling of Oil Palm products into the country from Cameron, Togo, Benin republic, etc, support to smallholder farmers, provision of processing equipment and implements at subsidized rates to farmers and a general conducive environment to encourage smallholder farmers.

Lastly, we demand the provision of at least 10 million sprouted nuts by the federal ministry of agriculture to smallholder farmers yearly to enable us develop nurseries.



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