NIGERIA – Nigeria’s palm oil imports have declined about 302,000 metric tonnes worth US$500 million as the country embarks on efforts to become self-sufficient in palm oil through increasing local production.

This according to Mr Godwin Emefiele of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who was speaking during a meeting with stakeholders in the Palm Oil Value Chain recently held in Abuja.

Among the stakeholders included Governors from various states and managers form food processing firms including Dangote Farms, Flour mills, United Food Industries and Dufil Frima Foods Plc, reports Daily Trust.

Emefiele noted that the country still relied on palm oil imports despite its high potential of palm production in the South-South and South-East regions of the country.

“Despite placing oil palm in the forex exclusion list, official figures indicate that importation of palm oil had declined by about 40 per cent from the peak of 506,000 Metric Tonnes (MTs) in 2014 to 302,000 MTs in 2017.

This indicates that Nigeria still expends close to 500 million dollars on oil palm importation annually and we are determined to change this narrative,” he said.

Emefiele unveiled that all the state governments in South-South and South-East, Nigeria had agreed to provide at least 100,000 hectares each for large scale oil palm farming to support local production.

“We intend to support improved production of palm oil to meet not only the domestic needs of the market, but to also increase our exports in order to improve our forex earnings.

This conversation is indeed important as it forms part of our overall strategy to reduce our reliance on crude oil imports, diversify the productive base of our economy, create jobs and conserve our foreign exchange,” he said.

He added that with effective policies, Nigeria could reach self-sufficiency in palm oil between 2022 and 2024 and ultimately overtake Thailand and Columbia to become the third largest producer over the next few years.

“As part of our Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) and Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), the CBN will work with large corporate stakeholders and smallholder farmers to ensure availability of quality seeds for this year’s planting season.

We will also work to encourage viable off taker agreements between farmers and large-scale palm producing companies. Loans will be granted through our ABP and CACS programs at no more than 9% per annum to identified core borrowers

We should understand that for meaningful investment to come into the oil palm industry, we have to think of other incentives to encourage manufacturers to turn oil palm to other things,” he said.

He said that in due course, the CBN would introduce policies to address challenges in the cocoa, cassava, beef/cattle ranching, dairy and fish sectors as part of intervention in the revamp the agricultural sector.