NIGERIA – Stakeholders and members of the Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON) have urged the Federal Government to dismiss the proposed application by OLAM to import some oil palm products under the West African Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS).

OLAM plans to import 95,000 metric tonnes (MT) of crude palm oil, 50,000 MT of Stearin in bulk, 60,000MT of Crude Palm Olein and 50,000MT of Palm Fatty Acid Distillates.

The Chairman, and Executive Secretary, POFON, Emmanuel Ibru, and Fatai Afolabi, respectively, frowned at the proposed import of crude palm oil particularly while removing tax on such importation.

Ibru said the threat posed by the activity of OLAM and some trade agents of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board is targeted at destroying Nigeria’s oil palm industry.

He condemned the application by OLAM, describing it as both scandalous and offensive to the collective sensibilities of local palm oil producers (both estates and small holders), and the government.

He argued that on the side of local producers, it has the potential to cripple the rising wave of investment currently being witnessed in the expansions of plantations and processing facilities, aimed at achieving self-sufficiency in palm oil production in the short to medium terms.

Ibru added that on the side of government, the proposition by OLAM amounts to an affront on the Agricultural Production Policy (APP), and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

“We are aware that Malaysia recently removed export tax on crude palm oil, and refined products, and some Nigerian traders are stockpiling these products in neighbouring West African countries to be reimported and smuggled into Nigeria using ETLS cover.

For the avoidance of doubt, importation of crude palm oil (CPO) attracts a tariff of 35% (10% duty plus 25% levy),” he said.

However, other refined vegetable oil products including Olein, Stearin, Crude Palm Olein, and Palm Fatty Acid Distillates are on the import prohibition list.

Ironically, these are the same products that OLAM sought approval to import under ETLS.

He added that they were making the timely call on the Honourable Ministers of Agriculture, and Finance, to intervene and save the situation from degenerating beyond redemption.

“Suffice it to say that plantation owners have been encouraged by the spirit and doggedness of the APP and ERGP and have embarked on capacity expansion including replanting of old stock, massive new planting, expansion of processing facilities, renewable energy etc, to ensure steady growth in the oil palm industry.

These gains face the risk of being wiped out if this situation of dumping is not addressed,” Ibru said.

POFON is a body of large plantation and industrial palm oil and rubber producers with members namely Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc, Presco Plc, PZ-Wilmar, Siat Nigeria Limited, JB Farms, Aden River Estate, IMC, and Agripalm (Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc).

The Guardian Nigeria