The Senate has disclosed that Nigeria has imported 450,000 tons of palm oil to the tune of N116.3 billion since 2017. This comes as it urged the Federal Government to place a ban on the importation of palm oil/kernel into the country.
It also charged the government to inject needed funds through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to aid the production of palm oil.
This followed a Point of Order moved by the Deputy Chief Whip, Francis Alimikhena (APC, Edo State) at plenary on Tuesday.
The upper legislative chamber also urged the private sector to partner with state governments to embark on revolutionary transformation of palm oil production and creation of allied industries through backward integration.
Consequently, it mandated its Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development to invite the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) on why it has failed to deliver on its mandate.
Moving the motion, Alimikhena expressed concern that the unbridled importation of palm kernel and allied palm products into Nigeria is a threat to the Federal Government’s campaign for the diversification of the economy through increased agricultural production and exports.
While noting that the importation of the product has threatened the viability of the local palm industry and government’s export promotion drive, the lawmaker said this has not only harmed the industry but depleted the nation’s foreign reserve.
He said: “The Senate aware that Nigeria was the world leading producer of palm oil at independence but unfortunately, Indonesia and Malaysia have overtaken Nigeria and we now import palm oil.
“Saddened that Malaysia, which is widely believed to have collected its first palm seedlings from Nigeria some decades ago, is now exporting palm oil products to us. The government must reverse this trend with copious investments in the local palm industry and the protection of local producers from unnecessary imports. We have the land and the manpower to become a formidable force in oil palm production. Our objective should be to go back to our pre-independence status in oil palm production. We have no business importing palm kernel or any oil palm product from any country.
“Aware that at independence, agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. More than 70 per cent of the population was engaged in agriculture. Apart from various food crops produced in the country, Nigeria was a major producer of palm oil/kernel, cocoa, groundnut and rubber, among others. But, following the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in the 19705, agriculture was neglected while attention was shifted to unbridled importation of agricultural products, including palm oil/ palm kernel oil.
“Aware that developing the oil palm industry is one of the ways that Nigeria can reduce poverty and create mass employment. The government should, therefore, encourage the development of this important cash crop, which significantly contributed to the economy of the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria during the First Republic. For the country to attain the desired status of the world’s largest producer of palm oil and its derivative product, palm kernel oil, it is necessary to mechanize its production, embrace high yielding varieties and support massive development of oil palm plantations across the country’s oil palm belt”.