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Supply gap reigns in Nigerian oil palm industry

 

One important sub-sector of Nigerian agribusiness sector that is begging for investment currently is the oil palm sub-sector. At 1.54 million metric tonnes, total consumption creates a shortfall of about 600,000 metric tonnes which is currently met through imports from far Asian countries including Malaysia and Indonesia. Bridging the supply shortfall presents a huge upside for investment in local oil palm market, a recent report by Vetiva Research has revealed.

According to the report, “At 970,000 metric tonnes per annum, local oil palm production had grown at 1.2 per cent on a 50-year CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate)to 2015. Outpacing the growth in local production, oil palm consumption has grown at 2.8 per cent over the same period as rising food demand by the growing population and increasing industrial use of oil palmproducts continue to expand the demand for the commodity”.

It argues that with decades of experience in the Nigeria oil palm industry, strong technicalsupport from international parent companies, plantation base to support future growth and integration along the value chain, PRESCO and OKOMUOIL as leaders of the domestic oil palm industry are well positioned to benefit from ongoing happenings in the sector, and the broader agriculture space.

Vetiva notes that there is widening deficit on slower production and faster demand growth. It argues: “Oil Palm trees are predominantly grown in the Southern states, particularly the wet rain forests and savanna belt of the country, but also in the wet parts of North Central region. Across these states (24 of the 36 states), the total land area suitable for oil palm cultivation span across 24 million hectares (ha) of land (34 per cent of Nigeria’s total arable land). Nonetheless, only

about 3 million ha are currently under plantation due to many reasons including challenges around land tenure system. Over 80 percent of the planted area are found in the wild grove which are owned by small scale producers, with large scale producers and estates accounting for the balance of 20 per cent.”

Oil palm has been a key crop in Nigeria as far back as the pre-colonial era and was an integral part of Nigeria’s agriculture boom of the 1960s. The commodity was a dominant source of foreign exchange together with other cash crops like Cocoa, Rubber and Cotton. However, following the post 1970 crude oil boom, the agriculture sector has been largely neglected with the oil palm sector on the decline.

Other factors that adversely affected the sector include over-reliance on traditional production methods, excessive tapping of palm tree for palm wine, as well as the civil war in 1967-70 which ravaged the oil palm producing belt of the country. From being the world largest producer of palm oil, Nigeria now account for just 2 per cent of global supply – valued at $1.2 billion, behind leaders Malaysia and Indonesia.

Cracking cassava agronomy: ACAI commences establishment trials in Nigeria, Tanzania The African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) Project has established 137 limiting nutrient trials, and 70 intercrop trials in a bid to crack the agronomy of cassava, according to a 5-month progress report of the project.

A breakdown of the work done so far indicates that 20 limiting nutrient trials have been established in Nigeria and 117 in Tanzania. For the intercrop trials, 29 cassava/maize trials have been established in Nigeria, and 41 cassava/sweet potato trials in Tanzania.

Dr Abdulai Jalloh, Project Leader for ACAI said the trials would help researchers answer key questions relating to cassava agronomy. “Understanding the agronomy of cassava is a crucial step towards maximizing the genetic gain of the root crop,” Dr Jalloh said.

The ACAI project plans 667 trials in both Nigeria and Tanzania across the four use cases directly associated with field experimentation. These are as follows: fertilizer recommendation (295); best planting practices (150); intercropping (202), and staggered planting (20).

The trials so far established represent about 44 per cent of the targeted total number of trials. The progress report shows that across countries, establishment of trials has been higher in Tanzania (82 per cent) compared to Nigeria (26 per cent). This is mainly due to the varying rainy season and farming systems in the two countries. The rains for the first planting during which most of the planting has been done in Tanzania are relatively earlier (March/April), while the main planting season for cassava in Nigeria is April/May. The remaining trials will be planted by the end of May/June in Nigeria while the rest of the planting in Tanzania has been shifted to the second planting in October/November. In general, the trials will be established within the window of planting by the farmers in both countries. Relocating markets You do not just wake up and embark on the relocation of a market, most especially one that has been located in a place for many years. Natives who thrive on superstition will tell you it is a spiritual thing. They claim,  not only human beings  make up a market;  spirits, they hold, are strong constituents too.  They therefore argue if you move a market from its ‘natural’ place to somewhere else, the spirits will revolt against such move. That is for the superstitious; a group one belonged to in those primitive toddler years.

There are more potent, more scientific reasons that help to explain the intransigence of traders when governments try to move them from one location to another. Take the Agboju Market, located at Festac Town’s Second Gate for instance (Festac Town is on Lagos mainland). The Amuwo-Odofin Local Government has tried on many occasions to relocate the market to 23 Road in the same Festac Town. Traders in the market, on these occasions, put up a strong argument that they would lose touch with their customers if they moved from their current location.

True, the market constitutes a nuisance where it is located now (it has taken over almost the entire Second Gate access road, obstructing free flow of traffic), its location is commercially strategic.  The market is close to a point where several roads converge – commuters, who are largely residents, are seen moving in and out of this road convergence for hours on end. They are either found moving to this point on their way from their offices or from their homes for shopping. This means good business for traders.

Again, the market is bordered on its eastern flank by the Badagry Expressway. What this means is that the market is well positioned to enjoy patronage from the high  human traffic, commuting along this international route, on a daily basis.  Additionally,  at  the same eastern flank, across the Badagry Expressway – outside Festac Town, is  Old Ojo Road – a  road that is parallel to the Badagry Expressway and which serves  a densely populated neighbourhood, made up of a middle class, artisans and traders of all sorts. There is therefore no debating the fact that the Agboju Market is advantageously cited where it is now. For this reason, the traders would not move, even when force is applied by government. There were occasions when stalls were pulled down and burnt, yet the traders remained adamant.

It is doubtful if when the Balogun Traders Association planned to move from Lagos Island to the International Trade Fair Complex, they took this factor into consideration. Investigations have revealed that many of the shops at the new market complex called International Commerce Centre are under locks. Reason: the owners of these shops still maintain their presence in bubbling Lagos. Some of the traders who are currently doing business at the complex lament giving up their shops in Lagos for the new market complex. The low demand for shops here is reflected in  the rent charged for shops at the complex. Shops cost as low as N36, 000 per annum.

This is a far cry from rent charged in Lagos, yet the pull here remains high. It has to be since sales here is at its apex.

Business at the International Trade Fair Complex is dull, traders here complain. In fact, you do not need to be told; you cannot see or feel here, the kind of bubbles you find in Lagos. Yet the market is spacious and is beautifully laid out, a big contrast to the congested Lagos market. A particular woman regretted renting out her shop in Lagos. She has the strong urge to go back.

There is however an interesting development in this same Festac Town, and other parts of Lagos too.  Markets now move to neighbourhoods for the convenience of customers. This is done once a week in places where they take place. Women foodstuff sellers move in from neighbouring Ogun State with fresh farm products; and some source there food items from the popular Mile 12 Market. It is a very interesting trend and good competition for the regular traders at the Agboju Market. It is interesting too that this trend operates in American cities, which makes it a universal trend. Investigations have confirmed that like many American cities, Oakland lacks adequate public

transit and sufficient access to healthy food to nourish its large, ethnically diverse and substantially low-income population, of which about 50 per cent  are African American, 20 per cent Latino, 20 per cent  White and 10 per cent Asian. The People’s Grocery is one of a number of progressive healthy-living organizations which have sprung up around the Bay Area in the last ten years with the intent of improving these conditions.

Siaka Momoh, a media consultant, is publisher/CEO The Real Sector; Realsectornow.com. Contact: siakamomoh@yahoo.com; 08061396410

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