Palm oil as an agricultural produce is supposed to be a resource that could sky rocket the development of national economies, due to its high nutritional value to mankind.
Nigeria happens to be one of those nations you can find around the globe with blessed with palm products in abundance, yet this sector can be vividly seen to have been weak in the area of creating employment, boosting the agro sector and also contributing to economic growth of the country.
It is disappointing to note that couple of months after members of the Upper Legislative Chamber called on the Federal Government to halt the importation of Palm Oil/palm kernel, no decision or policy statement has been made to that effect till date.
Tracking back to February 2018 when a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), from Edo State, Senator Francis Alimikhena, raised the motion about the ban stating that it would encourage the deployment of financial resources through the Ministry of Agriculture.
He further stated that the persistent importation of palm kernel and allied palm products is a threat working against the Federal Government’s campaign for economic diversification.
His agitation was compelled by a report bemoaning the huge sum of money spent on importation of the produce, despite the country’s comparative advantage in the production of Palm Oil with the availability of land and the manpower to become a formidable force in oil palm production.
Reliable sources also reveal that Nigeria importation activities involved a staggering 450,000 tons of palm oil costing about an estimated N116.3b in year 2017.
As at the end of 2017, the country’s domestic production stood at 970,000 metric tons, while demand was 2.7million tons, leaving a deficit of 1.73million mt.
Based on statistical reports from Lagos ports, it shows that between January and April 2017, 50,010 tons of the commodity was shipped into the country. For instance, SeaPrice ship discharged 15,000 tons in January; Chemtrans Havel ship, 10,700 tons in February; Star Ploeg ship, 16,400 tons in March and Mid Nature ship, 8,000 tons in April.
Historical accounts can also reflect that Nigeria was once the largest producer of palm oil in the world in the early 1950s precisely, as it accounted for about 40 per cent of the global output, but presently has a discouraging world share of 1.57 per cent, with Indonesia leading by 33 million mt; Malaysia, 19.8 million mt; Thailand, two million mt; Colombia, 1.108million mt; and Nigeria, a meager 970,000 mt.
Last week, President, National Palm Oil Produce Association of Nigeria, Henry Olatujoye told The Guardian that the country average consumption level stands at 2.4 million tons yearly, with the estimated production put at about 1.7 million, which gives a deficit of about 800,000 tons that are still sourced from other countries.
The Managing Director/CEO of Bama Farms, Prince Wale Oyekoya, who lamented government’s failure to implement the ban, disclosed that the country has good policies, especially on agriculture but he problem is implementation.Though he couldn’t give a specific figure or percentage on the current importation level, Oyekoya said the country’s importation cost has risen beyond N116.3b spent in 2017, which is an indication that domestic production has further dip.He attributed the low production level to lack of research and development.
“Everyone is just taking advantage of Nigeria’s weakness institution. There are fake palm hybrid seeds around that are not actually good for quality palm oil. Our institution is very weak, until we can strengthen it, we’ll continue to struggle with the problem.
He stressed that there is a missing link that hinders Nigeria attaining her expected heights in this sector as the country is supposed to be the highest exporter of palm oil in the world, but with a country like Indonesia surpassing us years after they came to borrow our technology, it has become a giant league ahead.
Oyekoya regretted that 80 per cent of foods consumed by Nigerians are imported. “Some of the palm oil being imported are adulterated and not good for human consumption. When it’s being used for cooking, you’ll discover that the residue will go down, which is not normal. These are the causes of various diseases.”
With implantation of regulatory policies and programmes being a major problem affecting productivity of oil palm development in the country, reports have it that the shady activities, which used to revolve within Lagos, Yobe, and Plateau, has reportedly spread to other states across the country, raising serious concern for stakeholders.
For instance, it was learnt that the type of oil could readily be purchased in the popular Daleko market, Ikotun, Jankara, Mushin, Ajegunle, Mile 12-all in Lagos, Ibadan, Potiskum and Jos. Olatujoye confirmed to The Guardian that most of the oil eaten in Lagos is adulterated.