Reviving Nigeria’s palm oil glory

E

ven with the dust raised recently over its intervention in the nation’s textile industry yet to settle, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) busied itself again by promising to inject N69 billion into the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP).

The gesture coming amid various other intervention programmes is another demonstration of how much the nation’s monetary policy is beginning to touch lives spreading from the top to the grassroots.

For sometime now, the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and his team appear to have taken delight in getting involved directly in programmes and projects to see the economy grow rapidly from resources outside oil revenue.

 

The implication of this is simply a consolidation of Federal Government’s diversification agenda, which has agriculture and mining as focal points.

It remains a sad testimonial that a country like Nigeria that was not only the world’s leading producer of palm oil, but also the largest exporter of palm oil, accounting for close to 40 per cent of the global market, could degenerate to the extent of spending as much as $500 million annually on importation of palm oil.

 

Benefiting from CBN largesse is no mean feat for Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, as the state boasts of the largest palm plantation in Nigeria.

For such a high revenue yielding commodity to have been idle for years is symbolic of the wastes that had attended the nation’s resources in the past.

 

It is instructive to recognise the mutual commitment of both Emefiele and Obaseki, who must also be commended for demonstrating a high understanding of governance.

ESOPP is an initiative of the Obaseki-led administration to rejuvenate the sector for global competitiveness.

 

This is not the first time that the apex bank would be extending capital to the state for agriculture as it had earlier benefited over 80 per cent from the apex bank’s N30 billion agriculture intervention for states when it received N25 billion out of the total sum.

 

It is also very important to note that the first ethanol plant developed in Nigeria is in Edo State and the CBN had earlier disbursed about N8 billion to support the project about just a week before the palm oil resuscitation deal.

 

To show his commitment to reviving the lost oil palm resources in the state, Obaseki did not just mouth it, but was the only one that came out aggressively among governors from South-South and South-East and made available 120,000 hectares of land for the project.

 

As rightly projected by the Central Bank helmsman, with the effort of Edo State Government in cassava, palm oil, rice value chain, and the support entrepreneurs in the state are receiving through CBN intervention, no doubt, Edo State will be economically viable in another three years.

 

The vision of ESOPP is from all standpoint embedded in success as, according to the state governor’s prognostication, a well thought out implementation of the programme would create over 600,000 more jobs as well as 25,000 hectares of forest cover.

 

This, however, would not come without a cost as the programme has been estimated to cost about $600 million, which is approximately N200 billion.

 

One commendable step is the governor’s belief in providing a virile investment atmosphere for the state to attract the right investors as everything is geared towards harnessing the state’s rich human and natural endowments to achieve economic growth and wellbeing of Edo people.

 

Prior to this potent display of commitment on the part of the apex bank, there had been a synergy with the state governors in the South-South and South-East regions promising to provide at least 100,000 hectares each for large scale oil palm farming.

No doubt, this remains another positive step to enable the country reach self-sufficiency in palm oil production between 2022 and 2024 and ultimately overtake Thailand and Columbia to become the third largest producer over the next few years.

Beyond the recent engagement with the apex bank, Obaseki had in January this year apportioned 17,954 hectares of land in the state for oil palm plantation.

 

This was done to boost production in the agro-allied sector through the application of improved processing methods and bring development to the grassroots.

 

In all of this, the Central Bank management must be commended for thinking ahead and infusing its monetary policies into the vision of the Federal Government to benefit ordinary Nigerians.

 

Not forgetting the proactive step it took from the onset by setting aside a portion of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund to finance agricultural projects at a single-digit interest rate of nine per cent.

This has created economic linkages between over 600,000 smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilisation of integrated mills.

 

As much as we commend the CBN for the steps taken so far to boost agriculture in the country, we also consider it necessary for state governors to start exploiting agric resources in their domain.

Now that the Federal Government is prepared to partner states in agric development, it’s time the governors took advantage of the process rather than watching from the sidelines while others go ahead of them.

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