Agwu: How to Explore Potential of Palm Oil Technology

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Tunde Bodunrin

Nigeria is the 5th largest palm oil producers in the world. She used to be number one but since the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities successive governments in the country have neglected the sector; resulting in Nigeria becoming one of the major importers of palm oil which used to be among her highest foreign exchange earner. Analysts in the oil palm industry say that the country has over $45 billion yearly potential earnings untapped from the sector. But unfortunately for the country, not many including the government are positioned to tap seriously into the numerous potentials of palm oil production in the country especially now that crude oil is no longer sufficient to sustain the developmental expectations of a massive population of over 182 million people.

Rescue plans for the palm oil production in Nigeria is underway as two globally acclaimed Fairs and Exhibitions companies: BKG Exhibitions Ltd, Nigeria and WorldEx Media Trade Group of Malaysia are partnering to organize a world class exhibition and conference aimed at resuscitating the sector in Nigeria. The event: “Nigeria International Palm Oil Technology Expo and Conference” [PALMTECH] is scheduled to hold at the Golden Royal Hotel, Enugu, Enugu State, from September 12-14, 2017.

PALMTECH Expo will bring together over 70 exhibitors and experts from diverse fields in the oil palm and allied industry from different countries to showcase latest equipment, technology, products/services. There is also a conference segment that will dwell on imparting knowledge, innovation etc. to help in resuscitating and harnessing the abundant potentials in the sector for the rapid socio-economic development of the nation.

The Chairman organizing committee, Mr. W. Ifeanyichukwu Agwu, who made these revelations recently in Lagos in a chat with journalists noted that besides the fact that the move is in line with government’s agricultural transformation drive and need to boost revenue, BKG Exhibitions Ltd believes in contributing to the development of Nigeria outside the gain in its business activities.

According to Mr Agwu, every business has its own contribution even as much as such still gets profit out of what it does just like somebody who is working and getting paid. ”You know when you run a business, some businesses are run out of passion, some are run out of basically business interest. But whatever is the cause of your running a business, it still has its own contributions to the general economic environment of wherever it is situated. Like BKG Exhibitions, we believe very strongly in using our business in our own small way to highlight certain areas to both government and stake holders within the economy. So whatever we can contribute at the same time doing our business to grow the national economic environment, we will do that. And that’s why this palm event came into being”.
He reiterated that conscious and developmental ‎efforts by managers of the Nigerian economy towards oil palm production could generate huge amount of foreign exchange within the next three years.

Mr. Agwu, who is also the Managing Director of BKG Exhibitions Limited, one of the organizers of PALMTECH Expo, maintained that besides the huge potential the sector has to attract foreign exchange, it also offers enormous employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of teeming unemployed Nigerian youths.

According to him, if the sector is given the necessary attention it requires, Nigeria will not even have enough labour force for the oil palm industry; the country will even need to import more labour from other countries. Stressing that “There is no reason for Nigerian youths to be unemployed”. The oil palm sector’s potential is even more than the labour force we have in this country. This is why we are using this conference to showcase the potentials of oil palm production which is even less expensive to invest in than crude oil.”

The Organizing Committee chairman advised the federal government to as a matter of fact prioritize its developmental objectives towards agricultural empowerment initiatives rather than investing in motorcycles and tricycles for youth empowerment. Oil palm plantation will outlive farmers. Nigeria is blessed in so many natural resource endowments. The government must look at this area seriously, although some state governments have already started to look inwards to harnessing their potentials in the sector. All the sector needs right now are right policies and a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.”

Speaking on financing, Agwu also challenged the Federal Government to come up with a financial policy suitable for the oil palm sector through the central bank arguing that you cannot finance rice and oil palm with the same interest rate. Rice takes about 9 months to harvest while oil palm takes minimum of four years before harvest could commence. “So, if you finance with the same interest rate you finance rice, it will not work. So, they need to come up”.

While stressing that the fair offers immense opportunities for networking, business expansion and widening of operational scope for global players in the sector by serving as a gateway to the largest palm oil produce market in Africa, Mr. Agwu added that It will also provide an annual forum for operators and stakeholders in the industry to be constantly updated with latest technological and management trends and as such, present an opportunity to review policies and programme implementation strategies to keep the industry in tow with the developmental needs of Nigeria.

Agwu however thanked Heritage bank saying that the bank understands this very well and it is doing a lot of work in this sector. “So, we are partnering with Heritage Bank. They have listened to us and also helping to see this work very well”.

BKG Exhibitions limited is the foremost Fairs and Exhibitions organising Company in Nigeria with over 20 years’ experience in organising cross-sectoral expositions in the country. The organisation is the organiser of both the Abuja International Motor Fair, Lagos Motor Fair and AutopartsExpo Africa, Nigerian International Construction Exhibition (NICONEX), Nigeria International Power Expo and Conference, among others.