By Hannah Usoro Akpanekot
With the priority placed by the government on Agriculture in its economy diversification-drive, oil palm farmers have been urged to increase their yields through improved production methods.
Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong gave the charge early today Thursday, September 17, in Ikot Ekpene during the 3rd Oil Palm Summit held at the Ikot Ekpene Village Council Hall.
Comrade Ini Ememobong who was presenting a paper on “The Role of Small Scale Oil Palm Farmers in Nigeria Economy”, noted that the importance of oil palm as a major product of agriculture cannot be overemphasized and called on oil palm farmers to step up their yields by adapting good production methods.
Represented by the Director of Strategy in the ministry, Elder Joseph Etem, he identified the major economic importance of oil palm to include: being a high yielding source of edible and industrial oils, strong producer of Vitamin A and a good source of treatment balm, amongst others.
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He observed that the derivable benefits of oil palm is more sustainable than other vegetable oil as a large percentage of it is used in food production and industrial materials. He advised that oil palm farmers should ensure the sustainability of a value chain through the availability of the product for domestic and other uses.
He also assured that the state government, with its priority in agriculture, will continue to synergise with oil palm farmers to harness the potentials in oil palm to boost its economic diversification.
In his keynote address, the Executive Director, Directorate of Agricultural Investment, Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation(AKICORP), Pastor Umo Eno, represented by the Head of Department, Agricultural Investment, Mr Ofonmbuk Nelson, decried the situation where oil palm was abandoned in pursuit of crude oil which plundered Nigeria into a mono-economy.
He mentioned that oil palm was among the first commodities traded in Nigeria for hard currency and thanked the state Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel whom he said attaches premium on oil palm development with over 100 oil palm farmers already profiled and recommended for CBN assistance in oil palm development initiative.
Earlier, the President of Oil palm Plantation owners Multipurpose cooperative Society, Mr. Udeme Bassey Edet, explained that the event was a yearly programme with the aim of promoting comparative advantage among oil palm farmers.
With the year 2020 theme, as, “Cluster Farming as poverty Alleviation Strategy” Mr. Udeme Bassey said, farmers needed teamwork to achieve their set goals of sustainability in line with Governor Emmanuel’s drive for Agro-industries in his Completion Agenda.
He thanked the state government for the donation of 500 oil palm seedlings to the farmer through the state Ministry of Agriculture last year and appealed for more farm inputs, with the hope that community plantation development scheme would be reactivated for tree crops in Akwa Ibom.
In his opening remarks, the chairman of the occasion, Obong Akpan Tom Akpaoko called for more collaboration that will enhance implementation for higher yields by Akwa Ibom oil palm farmers.
He encouraged participants to work towards ensuring that oil palm is returned as one of the very essential commodities to boost diversification of the economy from crude oil dependency.