CAMEROON  – The palm oil sector in Cameroon is grappling with challenges, despite its potential as a key player in the country’s structural economic transformation plan for 2030.

During a recent press briefing by the Association of Oilseed Refiners of Cameroon (Asroc), various statistics highlighted the sector’s complexities, including the increase in crude palm oil imports in 2023 to a staggering 200,000 tonnes, up from 143,000 tonnes in 2022.

Jacquis Kemleu, the Secretary General of Asroc, emphasized that the oilseeds sector is confronting a structural deficit of over 160,000 tonnes of essential raw material, crude palm oil.

“This shortfall necessitates annual imports of around 100,000 tonnes to meet demand,” he said.

“Importantly, these imports are considered a temporary measure, pending a boost in national crude palm oil production, and are not a violation of the import-substitution policy.”

Jacquis noted that the structural deficit is expected to further grow as demand rises and processing capacity in existing and new units surges.

“The need for cyclical imports is crucial to prevent shortages of refined palm oil and other products like household soap, which might lead to inflation.”

Currently, Cameroon produces approximately 400,000 tonnes of crude palm oil, which falls short of the demand due to a range of challenges, including weak organization among village producers, low yields, post-harvest losses, lack of reliable statistics, technical limitations among producers, and more.

Despite these issues, there is hope for the palm oil industry in Cameroon.

Samuel Guy Ngouembog Sohna, who leads a palm growers association in Eséka, is advocating for cooperative efforts to boost the sector.

He praised government support for this initiative and highlighted the importance of uniting producers to overcome the palm oil shortage issue.

“Despite ongoing challenges, the palm oil sector in Cameroon appears determined to meet the surging demand and reduce imports, ultimately boosting the national economy and ensuring food security while maintaining the environment’s integrity,” he said.

“The government is actively involved in addressing these challenges.”

In addition, he noted that the government is rolling out the Project to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the oil palm sector (Aprocom-PH), involving an investment of 3.2 billion F.

This initiative includes the creation of four modern oil mills set to produce a total of 10,433 tonnes of crude palm oil annually.

The Sombo oil mill in the Central region, Mkpot oil mill in the southwest, the Ngie Multipurpose Cooperative Society oil mill in the North-West, and the Bakingili unit in Limbe are among the facilities driving this transformation, bringing much-needed optimism to Cameroon’s palm oil industry.

In 2018, the Ministry in Charge of the Economy and the Union of Cameroon Oil Palm Operators (Unexpalm) signed a 3.6 billion F agreement for the Fertilization Support Program of the village palm grove (Pafpv), aimed at facilitating access to fertilizers.