Palm oil derived from the palm fruit is indigenous to africa and particularly West Africa and Nigeria.
Palm oil constitutes an essential ingredient of typical Nigerian diets and meals, and serves as a commercial product as well.
While palm oil is everywhere in West Africa, the use of palm oil in the international market expanded significantly as a result of the industrial revolution in Britain, and the expansion of overseas trade.
From candle-making to industrial lubricants, palm oil was a driving force behind the expansion of industrial production, while nutrient rich red palm oil became a vital asset on long sea-faring voyages.
It was as a result of this increased demand that Europeans began investing in palm oil production, first in West Africa and then expanding to Southeast Asia.
According to history, Nigeria was the world’s leading producer and exporter of palm oil as at 1965 and has since 1974 ceased to contribute to the export trade.
In Nigeria, the major oil palm producing states are Edo, Cross River, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti. Others are Bayelsa, Rivers, Anambra, Oyo, Abia, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Ondo, and Ogun State.
Due to the decline in agricultural productivity in Nigeria, the country’s ability to increase production to match domestic demand and consumption became a challenge.
Also, the outcome of the West African agricultural conferences held between 1927 and 1930 adduced the decline in palm oil export from Nigeria to ‘inefficiency, inability to develop plantation to sizable level and poor quality of oil produced.
Currently, Nigeria palm oil production accounts for 7% of total global output.
In the quest to diversify the economy from crude oil to agriculture, the Federal Government of Nigeria recently clamped down on importation and smuggling of agricultural products which includes palm oil, rice and so on.
Few weeks ago, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to blacklist any firm, its owner and top management caught smuggling or dumping any of the restricted items into Nigeria.
How then can the glory of palm oil production in Nigeria be brought back despite the clampdown on smuggling by the Federal Government?
For the drive to be successful, necessary things must be done.
The Central Bank of Nigeria should follow the presidential mandate of providing support to firms and individuals that want to expand the production of different agricultural commodities in the country.
Moreover, palm oil producing states should encourage prospective oil palm farmers through provision of improved seedlings, provision of lands, and access to loan facilities with zero or minimal interests.
It is also imperative to boost production of other agricultural commodities such as rice, cassava, maize, cocoa, tomatoes, cotton, poultry, fish and livestock to enhance the nation’s capacity for food sufficiency, employment and export earnings.