BusinessDay

New produce bigger than crude oil coming

...Oil palm cooperative will be bigger than NNPC – leader ...National mobilisation begins, north keen to snatch initiative

Most Nigerians of the present era seem to know nothing other than crude oil economy with Nigeria fetching almost two million barrels per day, plus plenty gas and petrochemicals. Yet, those who have inner details say the resurging oil palm economy is going to be far bigger than crude oil and the body coordinating it would be richer than the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The NNPC is where every graduate wants to end up, a development that would announce him/her to have arrived. This is because, millions of naira would start rolling in, big cars and houses would be his portion. Wealth from opportunities would follow.

Oil palm shows up again:

Oil palm is no new economy. It was a big deal in the early part of the 20th century in Nigeria but the hydrocarbon industry swept it off. By that time, Malaysia had borrowed some nut to go home and try. Today, that country is rolling in wealth because of the huge income and endless resources spilling from oil palm. Nigeria is biting its fingers as crude oil recedes and “fuelless cars” beam their beastly lights on.

Now, the body of palm oil producers in Nigeria now being expanded and structured to play international roles can grow bigger and richer than the NNPC, so predicted the president of the Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), Joe Onyiuke.

He said the resources possible in oil palm economy can create a pool of funds bigger than whatever the NNPC can do.

Onyiuke, a lawyer, made the revelation in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when he addressed OPGAM members on the need to move the oil palm economy to global level with sole aim of ending the importation of the produce.

The president revealed the strategy, saying the first phase is to mobilise and register all farmers around Nigeria and build a strong and well-structured national cooperative body that would have millions of members in clusters of 80km radius each.

The body would own the latest technology in milling known as automated mills that can handle every aspect of milling and deliver world-class quality palm oil and other products.

He said members would own shares in the organisation which they can transfer to their children and grandchildren.

He further revealed that importers are now rushing to buy up locally produced stocks because of absence of foreign exchange (forex) to finance new imports.

He said palm oil producers would stop begging for funds and loans every year. “We can build up funds and create wealth. We must structure the organisation like in Malaysia. Oil palm can make wealth revolution.’

He also declared the preparedness of the oil palm growers to play big in Africa as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) regime dawns on Africa. “Our farmers will create power base in their plantations and make them their offices. All television programmes will be recorded right on our farms. They interview us in the farms and see things live.

Anthony Ifechukwu, special adviser to Gowin Emefiele, CBN Governor

“International non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will work with us to help us form the right type of cooperative structure of global standards. The job at hand is to register all farmers.”

Amidst cheers and applause, Onyiuke said palm oil cannot go out of fashion (use). “We must trust each other and build each other.”

He disclosed plans to make Rivers State become number one oil palm economy, but that they must watch out because some northern states are doing big things. “Adamawa State has aside 100 hectares for massive palm oil plantation and they are working with us. They want to play big in the project.

“I am prepared to take palm oil to the desert, if need be. Now, Niger, Taraba and other northern states are joining. Let Niger Delta states return to palm oil. Drop entitlement mentality and join the palm oil revolution, else, the north will take over.”

He commended the office of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor especially the special adviser to the Governor, Anthony Ifechukwu, for showing huge passion for oil palm.

He equally cited a World Bank report that indicated that without adding value, farmers remain poor. “OPGAN thus wants to break the circle of poverty by adding value.”

He said the association has become bankable with computerised offices and revenue yielding projects. “The state offices are to reach the farmers in each state. We intend to create a national movement of real and bankable farmers who can have a say and negotiate with partners.”

He reiterated plans to end importation of palm oil, saying it’s a big shame that Nigeria is still importing palm oil. “We must work for CBN to help us. Palm oil has much value and attracts more money. It sells at N850,000 per ton; palm kernel sells at N870,000 per ton, whereas crude oil sells far cheaper with global gluts.”

The lawyer turned farmer said palm oil and water are now fuel that power machines and generate electricity in places like Germany and Ivory Coast. He said kernel shell is sold to Japan to power generators because its fume is far better than coal and not harmful to the environment.

He stated: “OPGAN has got a deal with Japan to supply the shells and other things. Malaysia is doing it, so why won’t we? Palm oil supports many companies.

He urged the members to work with their state chairman and recruit all other persons in Rivers State. “Do local government area road shows. Let everybody become rich. The CBN, NIRSAL and NIFOR are ready to support.”

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On the size of oil palm market in Nigeria, the President said Indomie (noodle) is the highest industrial palm oil consumer in Nigeria to boost palm oil production. No more need for middlemen to deliver things to farmers.”

He said OPGAN’s target is that every 50 minutes drive, there will be a cooperative society (cluster) with a structure to help things and boost production. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) will help us. Nigeria is to take quality seriously. Mills are to be set up in 80km radius.”

Urging farmers in Rivers State to capture the wave of oil palm swing, Onyiuke reminded them that Rivers has two leading oils; palm oil and crude oil. “Palm oil can make you rich. Let us stop begging. One tree will give you 35 years production. You can be a big boy right here in your village because your customer is in Europe.”

He also revealed that the new structure of OPGAN will be boosted by the introduction of health insurance scheme which he said is coming. “We have four health management organisations (HMOs) discussing with us. “We are now structured as an organised private sector (OPS) group. Fire insurance is also coming. We have seen the light. Membership will attract annual fees of N5,000 and Identity Card of N1,000, making N6,000. We need these funds to push the organization forward and do partnerships that will boost our revenue and create value.”

Joe Onyiuke, OPGAN President

CBN ready to midwife a new economy

In his remarks, Ifechukwu (SA to CBN boss), reminded the growers that it was oil palm economy that trained most of the present elites in the south east in school and gave them careers. “But, what has gone wrong? Palm oil is on the way to putting our people stand like grains in the north.

“Let us consolidate on what you have, which is palm oil. It is back better than crude oil. I drove on car without fuel for some miles. It is real. Crude oil economy is on way out. In oil, one hectare makes you a millionaire. There is need to replant.”

Ifechukwu said the CBN had to ask NIFOR to pass all seedling sales to OPGAN because of fake seeds syndrome. Now, he declared, there is a very reliable structure for sale of certified seedling. “That serves as the first yoke we have broken. Now, buy from OPGAN to be sure and if anything goes wrong, we know who to hold responsible. Get organized, get structured.

“Everywhere you go, you see palm trees being cut down to create estates. This is sad because you are eating your seeds.”

He also disclosed that this is the era of bottled and branded palm oil. “The CBN will not fund those who want to plant. No! It is for maintaining or expanding your farm. This is because farm maintenance loans are easier to pay back.”

He said the attention is on the oil palm value chain: Farm to processing to bottling to selling to cash. It is international standard. He assured that the next batch of loans is coming and urged those yet to access the loan to submit their BVN and other requirements. “Make palm oil the best business,” he pleaded.

In his intervention, a representative of the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) simply named Timothy said the lending organization was created because banks were not keen to finance farming businesses. “So the CBN created ways to boost lending to the sector. NIRSAL tries to create ways to do more for farming through credit risk guarantee covering 75 percent of risk while the bank can bear 25 per cent.

“There is also 40 per cent repayment refund to encourage farmers to pay back. For every month you pay on the dot, the NISAL will refund 40 per cent of the interest. We are creating agro geo-cooperatives to get farms in same location to form groups and be well structured.”

Rivers oil palm farmers ready to go to any length

In his welcome remarks, the Rivers State chairman of OPGAN, Erasmus Chukunda, stated that Rivers State chapter is one of the most viable chapters of OPGAN. “We have acquired a state office at No. 396 Ikwerre road in Port Harcourt complete with furniture and computers. We have been given a cracking machine to put to commercial use to aid revenue generation.”

He said the Board members and traditional rulers have been very supportive and that the CBN governor has a passion for palm oil.

He hinted that 200 of the members have secured loan approvals and that 100 have so far got the draw down. “We will scream to all of Rivers State when all of us get it. Palm oil business is in our heart. We were born into it, and we are now expanding. Oil palm business in Nigeria is expanding. Whatever you (national president) ask us to do, we will do it to get to the top in the world,” he said.

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