The Country Representative of Solidaridad Stephen Babajide has identifying best agronomy management practice and yield intensification technology as key way to boost oil palm production in the country.
Speaking during a dissemination workshop on the Sustainable West African Palm oil Programme (SWAPP) in Abuja, he maintained that the country can quadruple it current production if oil palm producers are trained on how to adopt best management practice on their farms.
According to him the market potential for oil palm is very huge and can successfully replace crude oil if government is ready to give the commodity the same attention given to crude oil and cocoa production in the country.
Babajide revealed that while about 80% of oil production in Nigeria comes from small holder farmers, there are a lot of potential for development of the crop especially in the rural areas If government can give the necessary attention in that area, so as to help in creating employment for young people.
He further revealed that ‘about 50 percent of oil is lost during processing due to inefficient machinery used in processing, disclosing that Soilidarida through SWAPP have been able to provide oil producers in the focal states with cold pressing equipment that could bring their oil extraction rate from around 9% to 17%’.
He also agreed that one of the ways Nigeria could emerge as a world leader in crude palm oil production was to adopt best management practices in its already established palm oil fields as these would help increase the national average yield per hectare, from about 5 tonnes to about 20 tonnes, maintaining that opening new fields could lead to deforestation and subsequently climate change.
He highlighted best management practices to include making circles around the palms, appropriate pruning, fertilizer, regular harvesting. He said they have been able to move the yield of the farmers they are working from 5-8tonne per hectare. “Adopting this approach, we are able to get four times the volume of CPO we are getting from the same field with out necessarily opening up new fields’, he explained.
Also the Regional Manager of Solidaridad, West Africa , Isaac Gyamfi submitted that Nigeria stands a good chance at tripling its production of oil palm if the best practices are integrated into the national policy fabric as the international oil palm players are looking back to West Africa to meet the global demand of the product.
He said ‘’The reason is that palm oil development in countries like Singapore and Malaysia known to be leaders in the production of CPO have dwindled due to lack of land resources thereby causing a huge deficit in meeting the global demand.’’
“Oil palm is a sector that Nigeria has a huge comparative advantage in terms of the total hectare under cultivation ,in terms of human capital to the extent that if oil palm is prioritized like we do for cocoa and crude oil , Nigeria could be the leader globally in palm oil.
Gyamfi lamented that while the whole of west Africa contributes approximately supply five percent of the world palm oil, Nigeria produces only 907,000 metric tonnes and is a net importer of over 600 000metric tonnes of palm oil adding that if the country can intensify on its existing 2.1m hectare under cultivation, it can produce 6 million metric tonnes of CPO