The deputy director, department of agriculture in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Benard Okata, said Nigeria is spending about $500 million annually on oil palm importation in order to complement existing gaps in the sector.
Mr Okata made this remark at the national workshop on oil palm organised by Solidaridad, an international non-governmental organisation in Abuja on Thursday.
According to him, Nigeria’s current local requirement for palm oil generally is about three million metric tonnes, but that it is producing only about 1.02 metric tonnes of oil palm.
“So, there is a gap.
“We import to make up for this gap, and Nigeria is spending about $500m annually for this importation up till now,” he said.
Mr Okata explained that it has been challenging for Nigeria to meet up the volume of oil and fat needed to complement its growing population.
“Nigeria requires about three million metric tonnes,” he said.
The agriculture coordinator, Okomu Oil Palm Company, Billy Ghansah, said that for Nigeria to fill the existing gaps in its palm oil production, there is a need to plant about 100,000 hectares of oil palm.
He said the basic cultivation strategy of oil palm was developed in Africa, but Nigeria didn’t take advantage of it, and the Asians took over, such that many think that they came to pick the seeds from here.
“They didn’t,” he added. He explained that rather they (Asians) made use of what they had and improved it.
According to Mr Okata, Nigeria made oils from groundnut, soybean and other crops. But from oil palm alone, he said we are producing 1.02 million metric tons, while from other oils we produce 1.7 million metric tons.
“So the significance of this partnership is to ensure that the foreign exchange is channelled to the development of other activities if we can expand our oil palm production to satisfy our local industries.” He said.
Also, a Senior Climate Specialist for Africa at Solidaridad, who doubles as Country Technical Lead, Nigeria, Sam Ogala, affirms that Nigeria was not meeting its domestic demand for oil palm.
“This country is spending around $500m annually to import oil palm. That shows you the huge gap, and it’s because we are not meeting local demand,” he said.
“In the early 1960s before the oil boom, Nigeria was exporting oil palm, but after that oil boom, we started importing, and all forms of oil palm are finding their way to the Nigerian market,” he added.