“In 1964 Malaysians came to Nigeria to take palm seedlings, and experts were also taken from Edo State to Malaysia, but today Malaysia and Singapore are producing 87 percent of the total world palm oil requirement,” Isemede said.
Going down memory lane, he recalled that “By 1966 when the military government came in, petroleum was contributing 9 percent to the national GDP, but today what is the price of petroleum products, the areas where we suppose to concentrate and challenge the regions and the State, we are busy importing petroleum products and not looking at areas where we have comparative advantages and as of today, let us not deceive ourselves Nigeria cannot meet the palm oil requirement of our local demand in the next 15 years.”
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He reiterated that you do not need seven years to produce palm oil, but 15 to 24 months which has been developed by one professor in the University of Calabar.
He said, “If we believe that we have banned the importation of palm oil, what support is giving to local capacity and if we are looking at the local capacity, which of the three universities of agriculture is going to be working with palm oil producers, which seedling have we adopted? Secondly, where are the processors, where are the tank farms and how are you going to transport them?
So we are still dancing around the value chain because we do not use the experts and if we do not use the experts, Nigeria that was producing 50 percent of the world palm oil requirement in the early ’60s, is now producing one percent because we have not been able to work with experts and give credence to them while also giving them the necessary support.
“Nigeria has the vast land to produce palm oil for the world because if Malaysia that is not as big as Lagos to Asaba combined with Singapore and their population is not up to half of Nigeria’s population and if you look at the journey, Nigeria started the journey before them, yet we still import palm oil from them. We need to challenge ourselves, challenge the universities and professors and put the best 11 not selecting people because they are family and friends otherwise we will be dancing round the circle.
“Right now, Kaduna is doing very well and we are seeing small plantations coming up, in FCT, we are seeing small plantations coming up. What is happening in the South-South, what is happening in the South-East where we have the old UAC Company, where we have the old palm produce?
Nothing is happening because everybody is talking about politics, everybody is talking about government appointment whereas the area government supposed to focus on heavily is agriculture which God has given to us is being relegated to the background.”
According to the Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Muda Yusuf, the main issue is the capacity, which had been weakened over time.
“There were issues of poor investment in the sector, aging palm trees, absence of institutional support, low levels of mechanisation. Years back, we used to have the commodity boards which provided support to the investors in palm produce production, quality certification. These boards facilitated the creation of export opportunities.
There is need to revitalise palm produce market in Nigeria. The oil palm research institute needs to be been resuscitated,” he stressed.