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One year after, senate, FG mum on palm oil import ban


Palm oil. Photo: GHH headlines

One year after members of the Upper Legislative Chamber called on the Federal Government to halt the importation of Palm Oil/palm kernel, no decision or policy statement has been made to that effect till date, The Guardian learnt.Senator Francis Alimikhena, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), from Edo State, who raised the motion in February 2018, said the ban would encourage the deployment of needed funds through the Ministry of Agriculture.He added that the continued importation of palm kernel and allied palm products is a threat to the Federal Government’s campaign for the diversification of the economy.

His agitation was compelled by a report bemoaning the huge sum of money spent on importation of the produce, despite the country comparative advantage in the production of Palm Oil with the availability of land and the manpower to become a formidable force in oil palm production. According to reports, Nigeria imported 450,000 tons of palm oil costing about N116.3b in year 2017 alone.

As at the end of 2017, the country’s domestic production stood at 970,000 metric tons, while demand was 2.7million tons, leaving a deficit of 1.73million mt.

According to findings, between January and April 2017, 50,010 tons of the commodity was shipped into the country. For instance, SeaPrice ship discharged 15,000 tons in January; Chemtrans Havel ship, 10,700 tons in February; Star Ploeg ship, 16,400 tons in March and Mid Nature ship, 8,000 tons in April, based on reports from the Lagos Port.

Currently, Nigeria, which was the largest producer of palm oil in the world in the early 1950s, accounting for 40 per cent of the global output, now has a world share of 1.57 per cent, with Indonesia leading by 33 million mt; Malaysia, 19.8 million mt; Thailand, two million mt; Colombia, 1.108million mt; and Nigeria, a meager 970,000 mt.

Last week, President, National Palm Oil Produce Association of Nigeria, Henry Olatujoye told The Guardian that the country average consumption level stands at 2.4 million tons yearly, with the estimated production put at about 1.7 million, which gives a deficit of about 800,000 tons that are still sourced from other countries.

The Managing Director/CEO of Bama Farms, Prince Wale Oyekoya, who lamented government’s failure to implement the ban, disclosed that the country has good policies, especially on agriculture but he problem is implementation.Though he couldn’t give a specific figure or percentage on the current importation level, Oyekoya said the country’s importation cost has risen beyond N116.3b spent in 2017, which is an indication that domestic production has further dip.He attributed the low production level to lack of research and development. “Everyone is just taking advantage of Nigeria’s weakness institution. There are fake palm hybrid seeds around that are not actually good for quality palm oil. Our institution is very weak, until we can strengthen it, we’ll continue to struggle with the problem.

“We are supposed to be the highest exporter of palm oil in the world, but it is not so. This means there is a missing link. Indonesia came to borrow our technology and now, they have surpassed us. Implantation of policies and programmes is our problem.”Oyekoya regretted that 80 per cent of foods consumed by Nigerians are imported. “Some of the palm oil being imported are adulterated and not good for human consumption. When it’s being used for cooking, you’ll discover that the residue will go down, which is not normal. These are the causes of various diseases.”

As claimed by Oyekoya, The Guardian learnt that there is growing presence of adulterated palm oil or ‘killer palm oil’ in markets across the country, a development that has been attributed to moves to fill the deficit gap.It was gathered from health experts that the regular consumption of such oil could cause heart diseases and cancer of the stomach. Reports have it that high cholesterol in various sources of oil has been a major risk factor for heart diseases among people of all ages.

Reports have it that the shady activities, which previously thrives in Lagos, Yobe, and Plateau, has reportedly spread to other states across the country, raising serious concern for stakeholders. For instance, it was learnt that the type of oil could readily be purchased in the popular Daleko market, Ikotun, Jankara, Mushin, Ajegunle, Mile 12-all in Lagos, Ibadan, Potiskum and Jos. Olatujoye confirmed to The Guardian that most of the oil eaten in Lagos is adulterated.

However, the National Palm Oil Produce Association of Nigeria President, Olatujoye said what the country import “is of no effect because we are meeting our need. However, since the advent of the present Government, more pro-active steps have been taken to change the narratives. I wish they would do more. Olatujoye, denied knowledge of the planned ban. “I don’t know where you got the news. Federal Government did not ban the importation of palm oil they only put a duty of 35 per cent and further put restriction on forex.

“I think the plan ban by European Union is a politics of protectionist. It is obvious no oil seeds can do better than Oil Palm does. My advise is to look on and see how it will be possible. We are talking about reducing poverty in Africa and southern Asia, Our European brother are talking about converting our food resources into bio fuel. May I ask, whose interest the ban will serve if the ban goes through? Definitely, it will not be in our interest. To us in Nigeria, we have nothing to worry about. We are the largest consumers of crude Palm Oil in the world. As at today, we are a net importer of the commodity.”

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