Nigeria Needs $500m Worth of Palm Oil Annually to Meet Local Demand, Says OPGAN President

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Okon Bassey in Uyo

Nigeria requires about $500 million worth of palm oil to meet the local demand of the commodity annually, the National President of Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), Chief Joe Onyiuke, has disclosed.

For the gap to be bridged, he said local palm oil producers would need to restrategise their efforts at both production and organisation to be able to attract the necessary funding needed for improved and increased production.

Onyiuke stated this at a town hall meeting with Akwa Ibom State chapter of OPGAN in Uyo last weekend, expressing regret that palm oil, which remains a major component for the production of more than 40 items excluding cooking have been left in the hands of the elderly leading to big production and supply gaps even as outdated processing methods are most times deployed in the country.

He noted that the war in Europe has also constrained major palm oil producing countries of Malaysia and Indonesia to limit their export capacities with Nigeria unable to attend to increasing export requests since production levels have stagnated overtime.

According to him, “It is so bad that Nigeria does not even have any capacity to export palm oil again, and the local demand gap is about $500 million, which is why OPGAN has taken it upon itself to organise members properly, and so if we are able to galvanise our strength, I am very sure we can meet the gap and surpass it.

“Oil palm affects our lives everywhere, especially in the food industry. Without palm oil, you can’t have your noodles, pasta, soap, margarine, mayonnaise, chocolate, tooth paste and many others in the food industry. Oil palm is the key because more than 40 items are produced from it, and so when you talk about food security in the world, oil palm remains key.

“Crude oil has failed Nigeria. Oil palm will return Nigeria to the prosperity of the past. We are lucky to have the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), and they are there to help us. So we need to go back to the drawing board.”

He tasked members of the association on the need for cooperatives and clusters for easy access to loans, and assured them that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) loan facility for members would be ready in three months for those able to meet the requirements and conditions stipulated by the apex bank.

Poor funding and proliferation of unorganised small holder farms and low participation of youths, according to Onyiuke, remain a major constraint to increasing production levels, but assured members of ready and willing market for their produce and a surge in price of the commodity as enough incentive for them to increase efforts.

Onyiuke tasked local government coordinators on the need for increased mobilisation for new members, and told the meeting that the association has initiated moves to float a micro finance bank and institute a health insurance policy for them while arrangements have been concluded for special loans for women and youth farmers in the association.

He pointed out that the over 200,000 member of the association have been invigorated for improved business processes while efforts are being made to add more to the 250,000 hectares of plantation land owned by OPGAN members nationwide.

While charging members to increase their collaboration with NIFOR, a senior official of the Institute, Dr. Solomon, warned of the prevalence of saboteurs who deceive farmers with fake NIFOR seedlings and fruits.

Solomon regretted that most plantations in the country have become very outdated and old, and would need systematic replanting while processing needs to be updated and modernised for optimum result and increased profitability.

The state Chairman of OPGAN, Bishop Onukak Afahaene, who urged members to key into the vision of the Onyiuke-led OPGAN, expressed joy that the federal government has realised the need for increased oil palm production, and have renewed interest in increasing the capacities of oil palm growers in the country.