SON DG Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwunonso Okeke

Forex: SON moves to conserve N94bn  on palm oil importation

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SON DG Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwunonso Okeke

The standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has disclosed that given the needed measures and processes, Nigeria could save over N94 billion on the non-import of palm oil into the country.

Moreover, through strict adherence to stipulated standards and quality requirements, palm oil products would attract increased foreign earnings for Nigeria as far as non-oil sector is concerned.

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 A statement issued by the office of the Director General/ Chief Executive of the organisation , Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwunonso Okeke, the agency has been making concerted efforts to ensure the growth of Nigeria’s export trade.

The statement was released after the agency’s public sensitization workshop for palm oil operators and stakeholders held in Osogbo, Osun state capital last week.

The SON statement was apparently in reaction to a shocking disclosure by one of chief facilitators at the event, Prof. Kehinde Owolarafe of the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU), Ile-Ife, who said Nigeria loses N94 billion annually to palm oil importation.

According to the don, between 1920 and 1960, Nigeria was the leading producer and exporter of palm oil in the world.

“But sadly, Indonesia and Malaysia now lead in the production of palm oil in the whole world.

“Though there has been an increase in production of oil palm in the last few years,  Nigeria at present imports palm oil to the tune of about one million metric tonnes to supplement the local production in order to meet the high demand.

“Indonesia and Malaysia produce in tens of million tonnes, while Nigeria is still struggling to reach two million tonnes.

“ Currently, Nigeria, which occupied the premier position has been dropped to the fifth position,” he said.

Owolarafe listed some of the factors resulting in the low production of palm oil in the country to include declining productivity of oil palm plantations due to old age.

 Other factors, he said were lack of appropriate technologies for palm fruit processing and unfavourable government policies as regards agriculture in general, among others.

The don said there was urgent need to improve the quality and quantity of palm oil production in the country to meet the international standards in order for export.

Owolarafe also warned producers and marketers of palm oil against adulteration, adding that this could be injurious to health of consumers. We have to join hands together to ensure production of high quality palm oil. The same climate we have is what Malaysia and Indonesia have and they are doing well. “We need to restructure the palm oil industry in Nigeria”, he restated.

The theme of the workshop was promoting value chain of palm oil via standardization,” attended by participants from South -West and South- South Zone in Nigeria.

According to the statement, the key objective of the Osogbo event was to create public awareness and sensitize the palm oil producers, distributors, processors, markets, exporters, retailers and end -users on the imperatives for standards compliance. This would in turn enable efficiency of production and increased income for all operators within the value chain in line with conformity to the requirements of the relevant Nigerian Industrial Standards and global best practices.

“ The demand for palm oil will always be on the increase to meet the immediate domestic consumption and downstream processing into several products. As a green renewable energy sources, the sky is the limit for a country that possesses the potentials for production and processes towards improving her economy. The promotion of value chain through standardization would lead to improved income for all operators, create employment and job opportunities and boost exports,”  the statement  stated.

Underscoring the economic and critical importance of palm oil products, the SON’ DG stressed that improvement in the production of the products could effectively mitigate the poverty level in Nigeria as palm oil industry has the prospects of providing employment for millions of unskilled, semi-skilled skilled people across the country.

The statement equally listed the benefits of standard and quality products including palm oil to include; robust lives and safe property, healthy and safe environment, increase in exports and foreign earnings; employment generation and job creation as well as economic and Industrial growth. Others are global acceptability and competitiveness of locally made products, transforming businesses into large scale enterprise, boosting consumers protection, confidence and safety, among several other values accruing from standardization.

The key note speaker at the Osogbo event was Professor Owolarafe of the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He made a paper presentation to the participants entitled, “Appropriate Technologies for improving the Yield and Quality of Palm Oil.”

He regretted that Nigeria which occupied the premier and prime position in palm oil production was now lagging behind among major producers such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Colombia. Through backward integration and applying effective technologies, Nigeria could still make palm oil to be the mainstay of her economy.

The University don stated;

“Nigeria has not been able compete well with other palm oil producing countries in the World owing to several factors

There has been continuation importation of high-quality oil by the local industries because the local processors have not been able to produce enough to meet their demand

Processing methods influence not only the yield of oil but more importantly the quality

An excursion to a local small-scale plant may discourage someone from eating palm oil owing to the crude method being utilised coupled with bad environmental conditions

Processors should therefore advised to adopt appropriate technologies and hygiene in the production and storage of palm oil so that poison instead food item is not distributed to would-be buyers.”

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