Uche Usim, Abuja
Plans to revive the nation’s $10 billion oil palm industry got a boost on Monday as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and some South East, South-South governors have agreed to provide 100,000 hectares of land to grow improved seedlings of the product.
This was as the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, picked holes in the remarks of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) that the recent removal of textile from the forex eligibility list had threatened the N5 trillion industry.
Rather, he said the textile industry was on the path of revival by blocking it from accessing forex for import and making Nigeria a dumping ground for all manners of textiles.
Speaking at a meeting with the governors and other stakeholders in the oil palm value chain, the CBN governor lamented that Nigeria still spends $500 million on oil palm importation annually despite being the largest producer and exporter of the product in the 50s and 60s, controlling close to 40 per cent of the global market share.
He said: â€œToday we are a distant 5thÂ among leading producers of palm oil; we barely produce up to 3% of the global supply of palm oil, with an estimated production of 800,000 MT of palm oil, while countries like Malaysia and Indonesia produce 25 million and 41 million tonnes of palm oil respectively. We have also become a net importer of palm oil, importing between 400,000 â€“ 600,000 MT of palm oil in order to meet local demand for this commodity. Despite the availability of over 3m hectares of farmland for palm oil cultivation, production remains low at close to 2 tonnes per hectare, relative to a global benchmark of 25 tonnes per hectare. This is as a result of the maturation of existing palm trees, as some of these trees were planted in the â€™50s, as well as low investment in replanting high yielding palm oil seeds.
â€œIf we had kept pace with our peers in supporting improved cultivation of palm oil, at the current global market price of $600 per tonne, and an assumed production level of 16m tonnes, Nigeria could have generated close to $10bn worth of foreign exchange for the country. â€œThis analysis does not take into consideration the number of jobs that could have been created in our rural communities from large scale-small holder developments.
â€œDespite placing oil palm in the forex exclusion list, official figures indicate that importation of palm oil had declined by about 40 per cent from the peak of 506,000 MTs in 2014 to 302,000 MT in 2017. This indicates that Nigeria still expends close to $500 million on oil palm importation annually and we are determined to change this narrative. We intend to support improved production of palm oil to meet not only the domestic needs of the market but to also increase our exports in order to improve our forex earnings,â€� Emefiele explained.
In his remarks, Abia State governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, said his state had already planted four million seedlings of palm oil.
â€œSoon, we will experience a glut in Abia. So we need incentives and added value to grow the industry.
Abia is ready to work with those who will add value,â€� he said.
In his remarks, Akwa Ibom State governor, Emmanuel Udom, hailed the CBN management for the initiative.
â€œWe need to chart a new course.
We need to look at the entire value chain. Almost 90% of the oil palm in my state is naturally grown.
â€œWe need to work with those who control the market. Look at their challenges, like inappropriate pricing. We need to close gaps and ensure it competes with crude oil. We need improved seedlings, education of the farmers is also key,â€� he said.
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