The Governor of Cross River State, Senator Bassey Otu has been applauded for his massive agro industrial revolution in the state.
The commendation was made by the National President, Oil Palm Growers Associate of Nigeria, Chief Joe Onyiuke at the flag off of a Town Hall event in Calabar recently.
OPGAN said they were motivated by governor Otu’s impressive initiatives in the agricultural sector of the state and pledged to collaborate with the Cross River State Government to create the largest sustainable small holder oil palm economy in Africa. According to them, the partnership would create an Oil Palm revolution across the entire value chain and would involve the establishment and management of nurseries, plantations, logistics, processing/milling, storage.
This is even as the state government in a deliberate and strategic move to fulfill and implement its agricultural vision, has accepted to adopt the proposal of OPGAN as an immediate initiative to boost agriculture in the state.
According to Onyiuke at the event which attracted national officers and coordinators from across the 18 Local Councils of the state, the collaboration would also include refining, manufacturing, sales/distribution and access to local and international markets to be jointly executed with the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR).
“It is important to note that Nigeria is the world’s fifth-largest Oil Palm producer but is a net importer of the commodity as it has huge local demand gulping about 500 million dollars annually according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“The Nigerian palm oil industry is very fragmented and dominated by numerous small-scale farmers, who account for 80 percent of local production and most of these farmers do not have access to improved seedlings/inputs and are not attuned to modern farming practices, meaning their yields and outputs are lower than it could otherwise be.
“Cross River State has always been a fertile environment for oil palm development and it is time for Cross River State to build coherent oil palm programs to regain its pre-eminent position as the number one oil palm state in the country.
“There are numerous activities in oil palm value chain and its socio-economic impact is so huge that we must harness the abundant human resources in the state especially women and youths to key into this oil palm revolution.
“Together, these activities build and strengthen the component parts as well as the whole value chain which is an important aspect of the livelihood of the rural farmers and the state GDP thereby promoting community stability and reduction in rural urban migration.” The President explained.
He lauded Otu’s partnership with the association and NIFOR to establish nurseries across the state as a testimony of the Governor’s deep understanding of the plight of oil palm farmers in the state adding that the move would trigger an oil palm model other that would be the envy of other states.
“This gesture of Governor Otu is a national duty that will see Nigeria gain back her lost position in the global index because Cross River state have the best ecological advantage than other states,” Onyiuke said.
He told OPGAN members that the state has the capacity to fill the gap created by $500M spent annually to import crude palm oil into the country and also be a net exporter.
“The surplus availability of fresh fruit bunches is the only thing that can put the state back on the national and global map. Investors and industries go where the base raw materials needed for their production are found in commercial quantity.
“We therefore cannot thank his excellency, Sen. Prince Bassey Otu enough for his deep love for his people. We in turn have been greatly encouraged and will not let him down as all possible risks of failure have been duly mitigated.
“NIFOR will set up a permanent base in Cross River State so we are together for the long haul. The permanent presence of NIFOR in the state simply makes it easier for training/building the much needed local capacity that will ensure sustainability.
“The members shall be helped to cluster themselves into Cooperatives after profiling and mapping through the different departments of Extension and Mapping in NIFOR institute as they have enormous human resources to help us achieve the above.
“OPGAN members here will work hard to promote and protect the nurseries, their plantations in order to achieve the lofty objective of the present administration – grow quality certified oil palm and process same in the state for the shared prosperity of Cross Riverians,” Onyiuke said.
It would be recalled that recent estimates indicated that local production of palm oil only accounted for 78% of local consumption while Nigeria consumed two million MT in 2021, leaving a deficit of 0.6 million MT.
Also, according to Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank at the recent UNGA in New York, by 2030 the size of the food and agricultural business in Africa would increase to One Trillion Dollars, which would further broaden the opportunity available to Nigerians.