The Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN) on Monday said 500 million dollars’ worth of palm oil was needed to meet local demands of the commodity annually.
Chief Joe Onyiuke, the National President of OPGAN, said this at a town hall meeting with the state chapter of the association in Uyo.
Onyiuke said it was regrettable that palm oil, which remained a major component for production of more than 40 items, excluding cooking had been left in the hands of the elderly.
“It is left in the hands of the elderly leading to poor production and supply gaps even as outdated processing methods are most times deployed in the country.
“It is so bad that Nigeria does not have any capacity to export palm oil and the local demand gap is about 500 million dolars.”
Onyiuke said over 200,000 members of the association had been invigorated for improved business processes.
According to him, efforts are also being made to add more to the 250,000 hectares of plantation land owned by OPGAN members nationwide
“That is why OPGAN has taken it upon itself to organise members properly and if we are able to galvanise our strength, I am very sure we can meet the gap and surpass it,” he said.
The OPGAN president said that oil palm affected the lives of people everywhere, especially in the food industry.
“Without palm oil you can’t have your Noodles, pasta, soap, magarine, mayonnaise, chocolate, tooth paste and so on.
“In the food industry, oil palm is the key because more than 40 items are produced from it, so when you talk about food security in the world, oil palm remained key.
“Crude oil has failed Nigeria. Oil palm will return Nigeria to the prosperity of the past. We are lucky to have the National Institute for Oil Palm Research and it is there to help us. So we need to return to the drawing board,” he said.
Onyiuke, however, said that local palm oil producers should strategise at production and organisation level to bridge the gap and attract necessary funding needed to improve and increase production.
He said the war in Europe had constrained major palm oil producing countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia to limit their export capacities, with Nigeria unable to attend to increasing export requests since production levels had stagnated overtime.
He said that members of the association should cooperate to access loans easily, adding that the Central Bank of Nigeria loan facility would be ready in three months for those capable of meeting the stipulated conditions.
“Poor funding and proliferation of unorganised small holder farms and low participation of youths remain major constraints to increase production levels,” Onyiuke said.
The OPGAN president assured members of ready and willing market for their produce and a surge in price of the commodity as enough incentive to increase efforts.
He urged local government coordinators to increase mobilisation for new members, noting that the association had planned to float a micro finance bank and health insurance policy.
He said that arrangements had been concluded for special loans for women and youth farmers in the association.
OPGAN Chairman in the state, Mr Onukak Afahaene, said he was glad the Federal Government had seen the need for increased oil palm production.
Afahaene said the government had renewed interest in increasing the capacities of oil palm growers and advised members to key into the vision of the Onyiuke-led OPGAN.