Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has stressed the need to boost oil palm production in the country and restore its position as a prime income earner.
Governor Ugwuanyi made the call in Enugu at a one-day enlightenment workshop on making the oil palm produce value chain a strategic tool for sustainable economic recovery organized by the state’s Ministry of Science and Technology in conjunction with the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).
The governor who was represented by his deputy, Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, stated that Nigeria over the years has “continued to pursue the diversification of the national economy in the light of dwindling earnings from petroleum”, and regretted the adverse effects resulting from that.
“We are indeed at pains to recall that Nigeria once led the world in oil palm production and that the produce and its derivatives actually powered the economy of the defunct Eastern Region. The questions that naturally arise from these facts are: what really went wrong, and how do we get back to where we were with regards to oil palm production,” the governor queried.
Earlier, the commissioner for science and technology, Engr. Patrick Ikpenwa, explained that the “workshop was aimed at enlightening farmers including other stakeholders on the potentials of oil palm and how to maximize the products”.
According to the commissioner, “oil palm is a crop with very high economic value and there should be a revolution on the value chain so that there will be ways of exploring more on its benefits”.
He said it was ironical that some countries commonly referred to as Asian Tigers which got oil palm seedlings from Nigeria’s old South East Region have made substantial earnings through sale of the crop’s by-products whereas the reverse is the case for Nigeria.
Also speaking, the director-general of Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDS), Dr. Hassan Doko Ibrahim, similarly recalled the important role played by oil palm in the country prior to the discovery of petroleum.
The director-general who was represented by the organisation’s deputy director, Mrs. Chibuzo Abiaeye, said, “West Africa used to be the centre of the global palm oil industry. The export of palm kernels began in 1832 and by 1911, West Africa alone exported 157,000 tones of which about 75% percent came from Nigeria”.
He therefore enjoined the country’s leaders to take concrete steps to correct the imbalance to further diversify the economy.