The Edo state government on Wednesday said it is committed to increasing oil palm cultivation to 250,000 hectares of land in a bid to boost oil palm production in the state.
Peter Aikhuomobhogbe, acting permanent secretary, Edo State ministry of agriculture and natural resources, gave the assurance at the flag-off of the first phase of 5,000 strands of coconut plantation in Benin City.
Aikhuomobhogbe said many plots of land have been allocated to oil palm investors as part of the tree crop programme initiated by the state.
He added that coconut has also been included to the tree crop initiative owing to its huge economic and nutritional benefits.
The acting permanent secretary said the coconut value chain had in the past been neglected and its untapped potential should be harnessed.
According to him, coconut is a tree crop and a major livelihood activity in the state. The governor is also thinking of doing the same for rubber and he is about to inaugurate a committee that will drive rubber initiatives.
“But on the whole, coconut will also be one of our key commodity that we will pursue under the tree crop initiative of the state government. Edo is highly endowed in good climatic conditions that is favourable to coconut production.
“Oil palm for example is receiving serious prominence, for now the state is committed to increasing oil palm to 250,000 hectares.
“I do not see any reason why Edo should not be among the top five states that grows coconut in Nigeria. Be assured that the government is committed to supporting coconut farmers to harness the potential of the tree crop,”Aikhuomobhogbe said.
He added, “so I will like to advise that we interface more to identify the farmers that already have lands to cultivate coconut so that we can support in terms of seedlings and inputs.
On her part, Tracy Akpovwovwo, National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN), said coconut has a great economic value that could boost the nation’s foreign exchange earnings.
Akpovwovwo said, “In the past, people have over looked coconut production and concentrated on other crops because of lack of awareness about its potential.”