By Iduozee Efe Paul, Benin
The executive director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Olusegun Awolowo, has disclosed that, there has been a great increase on global demand for oil palm from 1.2 million metric tons in 1964 to over 73.3 million metric tons in 2018.
Awolowo made the disclosure at a sensitization workshop on “Global Best Practices Across the Oil Palm Value Chain for Enhanced Produce Yield and Quality Improvement for Export Holding” in Benin City, Edo State.
The NEPC boss, represented by the assistant director, National Export Office, NEPC headquarters, Abuja, Mr. Olu Ikulaolu, said Nigeria is ranked among the top five palm oil producing nations.
“Without gainsaying, there has been a great increase in the global demand for oil palm from 1.2 million metric tons in 1964 to over 73.3 million metric tons in 2018. Indonesia and Malaysia are two leading countries in the sector growing over 60 per cent of the world oil palm trees cultivation
“Regrettably, Nigeria that used to be a leading producing country in the 1960s is presently ranking fifth in the production, due to protracted neglect by the government. Nigeria ranks among the top five palm oil producing nations.
“Yet, we have a long way to go to be able to meet local demand and export. The fundamental challenges confronting the sector in Nigeria includes subsistence nature of cultivation, high cost of production and concerns for environmental compliance.
“Others are, low yields, unacceptable processing procedure, quality/ certification issues, sharp practices, infrastructural deficiency, traceability, poor access to finance and high domestic price which have hindered export.”
He said it is important to operate the value chain with Edo State playing the leading role.
“It is important to engage the value chain players from time to time to address these challenges, so that we can grow the export of this product in Nigeria. As one of the leading producers, we expect Edo State to continue to play a leading role in the coming years,” Awolowo stressed.
He thanked the government and the people of Edo State for their support to enhance non-oil export in the state in the benefit of the people of the state and Nigeria in general.
“Before the discovery of oil in 1957, agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy and accounted for about 65 per cent of the National GDP, and provided employment to over 85 per cent of the population.
“There is no need to remind you that, oil palm played a prominent role among other leading products during that era. The fortune of Nigerian agriculture started dwindling in the 1970s during the oil boom period, which shifted the first government attention to a cheaper but, very volatile source of revenue.
“As at the first quarter of 2020, the contribution of agriculture to the National GDP has plunged below 25 per cent. In 2015, NEPC developed a game changer document tagged, “Zero-Oil Palm”. The initiative was developed as a strategy for boosting foreign exchange earnings through the non- oil sector preparing Nigeria for an economy that would not depend on a single drop of crude oil for survival.
The Zero Oil Plan has set a long-term goal of earning 20 per cent of the Nigerian GDP (US$100 billion), from non- oil exports,” he added.