By Gabriel Ewepu
THE Federal Government, yesterday, assured stakeholders in oil palm industry of expansion and easy of doing business.
The assurance was made by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Ernest Umakhihe, represented by Deputy Director, Tree and Crop Division, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chukwuemeka Utattah, in an opening address at the Oil Palm Value Chain Stakeholders Forum held in Enugu, capital of Enugu State.
Umakhihe who maintained that the oil palm value chain is among the commodity value chains promoted by the Ministry said capacity of farmers is being built along the entire value chain in the 27 oil palm producing States.
He said: “The Stakeholders meeting is usually the first in the series of preliminary activities that are carried out prior to full implementation of the programme.
“Oil Palm Value Chain is among the Commodity Value Chains being promoted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“The main objectives of this Value Chain are; to expand area under improved oil palm, achieve import substitution, Improve the productivity of farmers (by increasing the yield), support upstream and downstream processing activities to produce quality crude palm oil and vegetable oil products, create employment opportunities for the youth and build the capacities of farmers along the entire value chain in the 27 oil palm producing States of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers, Bayelsa, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Delta, Edo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Benue, Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna, Niger, Lagos and Federal Capital Territory, FCT.”
On the achievement made by government in the oil palm value chain, he said, “Some modest achievements recorded by the Oil Palm Value Chain in 2020 include increase in crude palm oil production from 0.998 million mt in 2016 to the current 1.029 million mt. Procurement and distribution of 451,500 improved tenera sprouted nuts to accredited oil palm farmers/Association in the 24 oil palm producing States at no cost.
“The Ministry also procured automated oil palm mills, oil palm cargo tricycles, and oil palm motorized harvesters which will be distributed to oil palm farmers/Associations that applied formally to the Ministry at subsidized rates.
“The Ministry has also continued to partner with Stakeholders such as local, private and foreign investors for development of the oil palm industry.
“The value chain will also continue to build the capacities of farmers in Goop Agricultural practices (GAP), Good Management practices, as well as support for Research and development of oil palm.”
He also explained essence of the forum, which according to him is to critically examine and discuss issues that can contribute to Nigeria’s sustainable exploitation of oil palm for economic development, address challenges faced by farmers as well as fashion out a robust roadmap for oil palm industry.
“However, the Ministry’s Scribe pointed out that, ” Funding of agriculture should not be left for the Government alone if we intend to move the Oil Palm subsector forward.
“There is therefore need to attract investments and funding outside the budgetary allocations.
“Accordingly, all hands must be on deck to work towards attracting investments and external funding to the Oil Palm sub-sector.
He (Umakhihe) also expressed optimism that, “With the caliber of men and women in this forum, I am confident that the challenges of the sector will be discussed exhaustively and appropriate solutions proffered.”
Earlier, the President, Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria, OPGAN, Joe Onyiuke, in a goodwill message expressed delight that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has indicated interest to add value to the oil palm industry, describing it as most important step in the right direction to provide platform to enable all stakeholders in the sector to share experiences and exchange ideas on the subject matter of the meeting.
“In fact, the theme of this Meeting says it all. We must think outside the box on strategies to develop oil palm on a sustainable basis.
“OPGAN appreciates the incremental improvement being recorded in the oil palm yields courtesy of the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), an affiliate of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development, they are indeed doing exploits in cultivating global best practices and standards for which we now enjoy new improved seedlings that can increase yields.
“We also want to express our gratitude to the honourable minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for the numerous grants and subsidies the ministry have granted our members through the provision of free improved sprouted nuts from NIFOR and implements at subsidized rates.
“We at OPGAN strongly believe that a thriving Oil Palm sub-sector is an imperative for economic growth and development of the country. It is not only critical for achieving a robust growth trajectory but also essential in realizing the much desired inclusive growth and development of our country”,
Expressing optimism, the OPGAN boss said with the needed push, the oil palm value chain will “serve as an impetus for economic diversification.”
He also encourage stakeholders to take advantage of “friendly policies of Government to maximize the opportunities created by such policies as the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the current administration.”
However, he said, “Whether we like it or not, crude oil is gradually failing us; the income is no longer enough given our single source resource dependence.
“The palm oil is a boom waiting to happen, unfortunately, over 50 years, there is no considerable improvement whatsoever in production.
“We at OPGAN want to use this medium to also express our gratitude to the CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefile for his massive investments under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme to boost local oil palm production which has reduced our annual oil palm import by about 22% from $500 million to $452.25 million in the last one year.
“While commending the Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development as well as the CBN Governor on their giant strides on Oil palm production interventions, however, it is important to remind ourselves that the small holders Oil Palm Farmers/Growers represent about 80 per cent of the market.
“It therefore goes without saying that without any serious and massive sustainable funding of the organized small holder Oil Palm Growers, Nigeria will never come of the wood as a net importer of this single GOLDEN CROP that GOD blessed us with.
“Oil Palm holds the single honour as the crop with the most potential to create millions of employment to highly educated/skilled and unskilled labour considering that it is a major raw material for the industries in pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food processing construction, power generation, and others.
Millions of Nigerian will be pulled out of poverty and reset the country for a major industrial revolution”, he stated.