The Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN) has said that it will collaborate with the Cross River State government to create a sustainable smallholder oil palm economy.
This is even as the state government in a strategic move to fulfill and implement its agricultural vision, has accepted to adopt the proposal by OPGAN as an initiative to boost agriculture in the state.
Joe Onyiuke, national president of OPGAN, who made this known in a town hall event in Calabar, said the partnership would create an oil palm enterprise across the entire value chain and would involve the establishment and management of nurseries, plantations, logistics, processing, milling and storage.
According to Onyiuke, at the event, which attracted national officers and coordinators from across the 18 local councils of the state, the collaboration would also include refining, manufacturing, sales, distribution and access to local and international markets to be jointly executed with the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR).
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“It is important to note that Nigeria is the world’s fifth-largest oil palm producer but is a net importer of the commodity as it has huge local demand gulping about $500 million annually, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“The Nigerian palm oil industry is very fragmented and dominated by numerous small-scale farmers, who account for 80 percent of local production and most of these farmers do not have access to improved seedlings/inputs and are not attuned to modern farming practices, meaning their yields and outputs are lower than it could otherwise be.
“Cross River State has always been a fertile environment for oil palm development and it is time for the state to build coherent oil palm programs to regain its pre-eminent position as the number one oil palm state in the country.
“There are numerous activities in the oil palm value chain and its socio-economic impact is so huge that we must harness the abundant human resources in the state, especially women and youths, to key into this oil palm revolution.
“Together, these activities build and strengthen the component parts as well as the whole value chain which is an important aspect of the livelihood of the rural farmers and the state GDP thereby promoting community stability and reduction in rural urban migration,” the president explained.
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He lauded Bassey Otu’s partnership with the association and Nigerian Institute For Oil Palm Research to establish nurseries across the state as a testimony of the governor’s deep understanding of the plight of oil palm farmers in the state, adding that the move would trigger an oil palm model other that would be the envy of other states.
He told OPGAN members that the state has the capacity to fill the gap created by $500 million spent annually to import crude palm oil into the country and also be a net exporter.
“The surplus availability of fresh fruit bunches is the only thing that can put the state back on the national and global map. Investors and industries go where the base raw materials needed for their production are found in commercial quantity.
“We cannot thank Governor Bassey Otu enough for his deep love for his people. We in turn have been greatly encouraged and will not let him down as all possible risks of failure have been duly mitigated.
“NIFOR will set up a permanent base in Cross River State so we are together for the long haul. The permanent presence of NIFOR in the state simply makes it easier for training/building the much-needed local capacity that will ensure sustainability.
“The members shall be helped to cluster themselves into cooperatives after profiling and mapping through the different departments of Extension and Mapping in NIFOR institute as they have enormous human resources to help us achieve the above.
“OPGAN members here will work hard to promote and protect the nurseries, their plantations in order to achieve the lofty objective of the present administration – grow quality certified oil palm and process the same in the state for the shared prosperity of Cross Riverians.” Onyiuke said.
It would be recalled that recent estimates indicated that local production of palm oil only accounted for 78 percent of local consumption while Nigeria consumed two million MT in 2021, leaving a deficit of 0.6 million MT.
Also, according to Akinwunmi Adesina, president, African Development Bank, at the recent UNGA in New York, by 2030 the size of the food and agricultural business in Africa would increase to $1 trillion, which would further broaden the opportunity available to Nigerians.