It has been revealed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disclosed an agreement with all states in the South-South and South-East regions of the country to contribute 100,000 hectares of land each for palm oil farming in order to cut down on the current import bill of over five hundred million dollars annually.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this on Monday during a stakeholders’ meeting on the Palm Oil Value Chain held in Abuja.
Present at the meeting were the governors of Akwa Ibom, Edo and Abia states, managers of Dangote Farms, Flour mills, United Food Industries and Dufil Frima Foods Plc, among others.
The CBN governor stated that it was a sad fact that the country was still importing palm oil in spite of sufficient arable land in the South-South and South-East regions of the country to farm it.
He recalled that in the late 50’s and 60’s, Nigeria was not only the world’s leading producer of palm oil, but it was also the largest exporter of palm oil, accounting for close to 40 per cent of the global market share.
He said that right now, Malaysia and Indonesia were the top producers of palm oil and Nigeria the fifth, after getting their seeds and learning how to cultivate oil palm from Nigeria.
Emefiele said, “This conversation is indeed important as it forms part of our overall strategy to reduce our reliance on crude oil imports, diversify the productive base of our economy, create jobs and conserve our foreign exchange.
“Despite 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 Metric Tonnes (MTs) in 2014 to 302,000 MTs in 2017.
“This indicates that Nigeria still expends close to 500 million dollars 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,” he said.
To this end, Emefiele said that all the state governors in South-South and South-East, Nigeria had agreed to provide at least 100,000 hectares each for large scale oil palm farming. He said that with the help of the state governments, Nigeria could reach self-sufficiency in palm oil between 2022 and 2024 and ultimately overtake Thailand and Columbia to become the third largest producer over the next few years.
“As part of our Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) and Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), the CBN will work with large corporate stakeholders and smallholder farmers to ensure availability of quality seeds for this year’s planting season.
“We will also ensure the availability of agro-chemicals in order to enable improved cultivation of palm oil.
“We will also work to encourage viable off taker agreements between farmers and large-scale palm producing companies.
“Loans will be granted through our ABP and CACS programs at no more than 9 per cent per annum to identified core borrowers,” he said.
Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said the state was currently cultivating about 70,000 hectares of land of oil palm.
He also spoke on the need to revive the moribund Nigerian Institute For Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), in Benin to improve investment in research and production of quality oil palm seeds.