Agriculture

Oil palm sector braces up for global market competition

by Editor

September 18, 2013 | 12:00 am
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As major players in the consumption of oil palm products across the globe have set 2015 as deadline for investors in the agro-sector to have their products certify, stakeholders in the sector in Nigeria have commenced measures geared towards bracing up to beat the deadline.

BusinessDay reports that the certification is geared towards ensuring that oil palm products coming from the country is able to compete favourably with its counterpart in international markets.

In order to ensure that it beats the deadline, stakeholders in the sector across the country, non-governmental organisations, media representative, among others, recently met in Edo State in a “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Africa Roadshow” to discuss on ways to key into the policy.

In an interview with BusinessDay, Fatai Afolabi, co-ordinator of the programme in Nigeria, says RSPO initiative is geared towards repositioning Nigeria oil palm production for global competitiveness in the world palm oil trade.

Afolabi, who is also the general secretary of Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON), adds that the objective of the initiative is to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through co-operation with the supply chain and open dialogue between its stakeholders.

Other objective of the initiative is to ensure that no primary forests or other high conservation value areas are cleared for new palm oil plantations, and that oil palm plantations minimise their environmental footprints while respecting the basic rights of local land owners, farm workers and indigenous people.

According to him, RSPO is a global mechanism for ensuring and sustaining the production of palm oil worldwide in an economical viable, profitable, socially responsive and environmentally responsible manner.

“So, it is just a wake-up call to us in Nigeria. For us to be able to put back our oil palm industry on course in a competitive path globally, we need to start approaching our production system as will be able to conform to the new global trends and demanding in our standard that has been set for production of sustainable palm oil.

“On this occasion, we are collaborating with Proforest in UK and Solidaridad West Africa to bring this training into Nigeria that is named RSPO roadshow Africa. They have already taken the programme to a number of West Africa countries, and in fact, it has to be in Nigeria now.

“It offers unique opportunities to further sensitise stakeholders in the supply chain of palm oil and to build their capacity that would of course help us to be able to come up with our own national interpretation of the principles and criteria as postulated by RSPO.

 “In Nigeria, we have been producing palm oil from the traditional system and at the large estates level they have brought in sophisticated and modern production technology, but then there has not been standard or industry practices that are guiding the operations as you will find locally now in terms of international best practices.

“So, what RSPO will do is to also assist us to conform to such international best practices and the entire precautionary standard as to be proactive, especially in the environmental point of view and social point of view much more than economical and profit consideration for palm oil production,” he says.

He posits that POFON and other big estates in the sector have initiated the move to establish national interpretation of the RSPO principles and criteria for the country, saying that the Nigeria National Interpretation Working Group would comprise of oil palm growers and millers, palm oil processors or traders, end users and consumers goods manufacturers, government and regulatory agencies, financial institutions and investors, NGOs, media, environmental/nature conservation, among others.

Earlier, Isaac Abban-Mensah, a senior project manager from Proforest, an international resources consultancy based in the UK, who discloses that the initiative is a new concept that many people are not aware of, notes that it provides an international framework for environmental best practices as well as guides people on how to manage the oil palm plantation in a very sustainable way.

Abban-Mensah adds that similar sensitisation programmes have already been carried out in Ghana, Liberia, Cameroon, Gabon, and Ivory Cost, respectively.

He adds that an Ivory Cost-based oil palm company is the only company that is RSPO certified in Africa, pointing out three companies in Nigeria are currently putting modalities in place to be certified.

He points out that Unilever, one of the major consumers of oil palm products in the globe, has said it would cease buying products from any producer that is not RSPO certified by 2015.

Abban-Mensah, however, discloses that based on the level of negotiation on conferences that have taken place across oil palm producing countries in Africa, a total of about 10 million hectares plantation would be cultivated in no distant time across the continent.

BY: IDRIS UMAR MOMOH

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by Editor

September 18, 2013 | 12:00 am
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