Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has called for the revial of oil palm production nationwide to boost oil palm production and restore its lost glory as a prime income earner for Nigeria.
Ugwuanyi made the call in Enugu on Saturday at an enlightenment workshop on “making oil palm produce value chain a strategic tool for sustainable economic recovery’’.
The workshop was organised by the State’s Ministry of Science and Technology in collaboration with the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).
The governor, represented by his deputy, Mrs Cecilia Ezeilo, said that Nigeria had over the years continued to pursue the diversification of the nation’s economy in the light of dwindling earnings from petroleum.
Ugwuanyi, however, regretted the adverse effects resulting from dwindling earnings from nation’s crude oil sector.
“We are indeed at pains to recall that Nigeria once led the world in palm oil production and that the produce and its derivatives actually powered the economy of the defunct Eastern Region.
“The questions that naturally arise from these facts are: what really went wrong, and how do we get back to where we were with regards to palm oil production,’’ the governor queried.
Earlier, the state’s Commissioner for Science and Technology, Mr Patrick Ikpenwa, explained that the workshop was aimed at enlightening farmers including other stakeholders on the potential of palm oil.
Ikpenwa said it was ironical that some countries commonly referred to as Asian Tigers, which got oil palm seedlings from Nigeria’s old South East Region, had made substantial earnings through the sale of the crop’s by-products.
According to him, the reverse is the case for Nigeria.
He added that palm oil was a crop with very high economic value and there should be a revolution on the value chain so that there would be ways of exploring more on its benefits.
In his remarks, the Director-General of RMRDC, Dr Hassan Ibrahim, similarly recalled the important role played by palm oil in the country prior to the discovery of petroleum.
Ibrahim, who was represented by a Deputy Director, Mrs Chibuzo Abiaeye, said that West Africa used to be the centre of global palm oil industry.
“The export of palm kernels began in 1832, and by 1911, West Africa alone exported 157,000 tonnes of which about 75 per cent came from Nigeria,’’ he said.
The director-general, therefore, enjoined the country’s leaders to take concrete steps to correct the imbalance to further diversify the economy.