Palm Oil Boom: Nigeria Losing Multibillion Dollars for Not Supporting Small Farmers

Kunle Aderinokun

The Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN) has raised the alarm that Nigeria is losing billions of dollars over inability of its smallholders, constituting 80 per cent of the market getting funding and organised to gain from the current palm oil boom in the international market.

OPGAN President, Mr. Joe Onyiuke, who spoke to THISDAY at the weekend on the heels of recent surge in the price of crude palm oil at the international market, however acknowledged effort of the CBN in providing support to the players in the upper echelon of the industry, which only control 20 per cent of the domestic market. 

While appealing to the apex bank and other relevant authorities to support the smallholder farmers to boost production, he pointed out that, “The government of President Buhari has done a lot for other smallholder farmers, but unfortunately, we, the smallholder farmers in oil palm have been neglected despite the huge supply gap in the country.”

Recently, Reuters reported that Palm oil had become the costliest among the four major edible oils for the first time as buyers rush to secure replacements for sunflower oil shipments from the top exporting Black Sea region that were disrupted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Crude palm oil (CPO) is being offered at about $1,925 a tonne, including cost, insurance and freight (CIF), in India for March shipments, compared with $1,865 for crude soybean oil.

Reacting to the development, Onyiuke lamented that, “Nigeria is losing monetary opportunities in billions of dollars due to our inability to fund and help the organised small holder palm oil farmers, who control 80 per cent of the market gain from the world palm oil boom. Major palm oil traders still prefer to smuggle crude palm oil through our porous borders thereby further undermining the efforts of our helpless members who struggle against all odds to stay afloat.”

“The CBN have done well with funding the big estates which control about 20 per cent of the market. So it is only logical that for the country to make any meaningful inroad in closing this monumental domestic gap and export excess, the small holders who control about 80 per cent should be supported to boost production. It is a well-established fact that you cannot fund oil palm production and make a loss due to its multiple income heads,” he added.

Onyiuke, who is leading an oil palm growers group with membership in 27 states of the federation stressed, “We must be able to maintain our plantations adequately in order to triple production. We must be able to repopulate our existing wild groves (Dura specie) glowing on over 1 million hectare of land into NIFOR produced and certified Tenera specie. That alone will put us back into world leadership. We must be able to expand our existing plantations also. Besides the above, we must move beyond the use of our bare hands to process our fresh fruit bunches.

“We need to migrate to modern mills which will guarantee us maximum yield and cut the monumental loss of oil we suffer using our old unhygienic system. The use of modern mill will also guarantee the much needed quality. All the above cost a lot of money. Other investment in logistics, storage, industrial and domestic uses will generate tremendous employment (both men and women) and wealth creation.”

According to him, with very high output which only the organised small holders can achieve and apply to close the huge internal gap of nearly $500 million as well.

“We will definitely export the excess to the international market. We are the ones killing our country. A country, which was once a leader in the palm oil market is now shamelessly a net importer allowing all manners of charlatans to run riot on our borders in the name of meeting local demand instead of folding our sleeves and do the needful with the abundant knowledge, arable land and wealth that GOD has given us. Unpatriotic Nigerians work with unscrupulous elements to undermine our food security and economy because of personal gains.

“It is important to note that both Malaysia and Indonesia governments took this crop very seriously and invented heavily on their small holder farmers as well as research. But what do we have here? Decay and neglect. Yet we want to copy other people’s hard work when we know we are much better then then except that we have decided to be just consumers,” he stated.

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