An investor in agriculture, Mr. Ade Ajayi, has called for more investments in oil palm production to solve Nigeria’s economic challenges.
Ajayi, who is the Farm Manager of Baba Eko Farms Ltd., managed by Corporate Farmers International (CFI), gave the advice in Lagos during the week.
He said compared to crude oil of $60 (N21,660) per barrel, a 25-litre keg of palm oil goes for N11,000; and a tonne of palm oil at the international market attracts $500 (N180,000).
“Currently, palm oil in Nigeria stands at N11, 000 per 25 litres, while at the international market, the commodity per tonne sells for $500.
“Compared with crude oil of $60 per barrel, palm oil production is the next red gold that Nigeria needs to rescue us from economic paralysis. We stand to gain massively from the production and processing of oil palm,” Ajayi said.
He explained that his reason for advocating the promotion of oil palm development was driven by the 18 years he has put into commercial farming, where he discovered that most Southwest states planted cocoa, but the capacity had dropped tremendously because of aging trees.
“However, there is a solution to this as we advise farmers, who cannot replace cocoa trees due to land fallowing, to take up oil palm plantation because the fallowed lands are suitable,’’ Ajayi said.
The expert noted that the advocacy for development of the oil palm sector was appropriate to get Nigeria back to its glory as the top producer of palm oil.
He hailed the Federal Government’s current ban on palm oil importation. Describing the move as a welcome development, Ajayi said it was also long overdue.
“Before 2014, the forex spent on palm oil importation was around $900 million, but the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has brought it down to $500 million.
“Since 2015, the palm oil major producing companies like Okomu, Presco and Leventis invested heavily to expand their production capacity. This can be traced to their success stories at the Nigerian Stock Exchange floor.
“I want to encourage individuals and corporate organisations to invest in hybrid seeds with three years gestation and about a 100 years life span,’’ he said.
Baba Eko Farms Ltd. situated in Kabba, in Kogi State, plans to cultivate 50 hectares of oil palm plantation. According to Ajayi, 22 hectares of oil palm plantation have been cultivated; 28 hectares will be cultivated within the next three years.
Nigeria, as one of the top five producers of palm oil as at 2018, produced one million tonnes of the commodity.
In the past, palm oil production and palm kernel export contributed about 20 per cent to Nigeria’s foreign reserves and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).