By Joseph Chibueze, Abuja
Nigeria’s quest to achieve self-sufficiency in palm oil production is gaining traction as the nation’s crude palm oil production now stands at 1.029 million metric tonnes annually.
This is a visible improvement over the previous production level of 0.998 million mt.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono disclosed this in his opening remarks at the farmers’ field school organised by the Oil Palm Value Chain of the FMA&RD in collaboration with NIFOR for oil palm farmers on nursery establishment and field development, harvesting, processing and marketing held at Enugu.
The minister said the federal government is committed to improving the Oil Palm Value Chain which is why it is among the Commodity Value Chains being promoted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
According to him, “So far, we have procured and distributed over 451,500 improved tenera sprouted nuts to accredited oil palm farmers/Association in the 27 oil palm producing States at no cost.
“The Ministry also procured automated oil palm mills, oil palm cargo tricycles, and oil palm motorised harvesters which will be distributed to oil palm farmers/Associations that applied formally to the Ministry at subsidised rates.” He said 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 said.
Also speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, represented by Deputy Director, Tree and Crop Division, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Chukwuemeka Utattah, said the main objectives of the value chain are; to expand areas 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.
The states include: 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 FCT.
“The aim of this stakeholders meeting is to critically examine/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,” the Permanent Secretary said.
In his goodwill message, President, Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), Mr. Joe Onyiuke, while thanking the ministry for the support it has been giving the oil palm sub-sector in recent times, said it is time to think outside the box on strategies to develop oil palm on a sustainable basis.
In his words, “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 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. I am pretty certain from all indications, that Oil Palm value chain do not only contribute significantly to the economy but can also serve as an impetus for economic diversification.”