The Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN) says the oil palm industry deserves more attention for increased productivity.
The National President of the association, Mr Joe Onyiuke, stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.
Onyiuke said that equipping farmers with the necessary tools and knowledge was critical in boosting the production of the commodity in the country.
While commending the Federal Government for its support to the industry, he condemned the continued illegal importation of palm oil into the country.
Onyiuke, who blamed the poor production of oil palm on lack of necessary tools and the required knowledge for processing, stressed the need for improved mechanisation for maximum yields.
”We lack the necessary tools and knowledge to process and that is why we resort to importation.
”We need to stop all these importation because when we import, we import poverty from other countries to your country.
”The Federal Government has been very responsive. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Trade and Investment are working very hard to support us.
”On our part, we are working hard to increase our production capacity.
“As a cooperative, it is our duty to train our members and make sure we have market for whatever we produce. Today we have both local and international markets.
”So what is left now is funding. We expect government to help us in the area of funding to increase our production capacity.
“We stand at the bottom to support the government and our country,’’ Onyiuke said.
According to him, the unemployment and security challenges currently confronting the country can be addressed by paying more attention to the production of oil palm.
”This is simply because virtually everything we use is made from oil palm.
”What we are enjoying today is what our forefathers did in the 1960s. So we need to understand this crop very well and the best way to handle it.
”It is a golden crop. Therefore, we need to increase our productivity and process in the right manner so that the quality will meet international standard.
”Unfortunately, we still import because most of the local farmers do not know how to process and they don’t have the technology because of poverty.
”You can imagine working so hard and at the end of the day you are able to extract only 30 per cent of the oil because you are using your bare hands and the other ones turn to waste,” he said.
According to him, in oil palm, there is the crude palm oil, the palm kernel oil and the cake.
Onyiuke added that the demand for the three major products was so high in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
”Tell me where it is not useful; we use it for pasta, bread, ice cream, body cream, soap, detergent and many more.
“So, we need to change the narrative and begin to process our oil palm in Nigeria,’’ he said.
The national president said instead of exporting the crude palm oil, there was the need to start adding value to the product.
He said this could be done by engaging engineers and empowering people to set up cottage industries to use palm oil to produce other things needed in society.
”When you create all these opportunities, people will be absorbed and become gainfully employed and government will make money from taxes and people will be busy and shy away from crime”.