Senate Flares N116billion Import Bill On Palm Oil
The Senate on Tuesday said that about 450,000 tons of palm oil worth N116.3billion mported into Nigeria since 2017 is unacceptable and therefore urged the federal government to urgently ban the importation of palm oil/kernel and also inject funds through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to aid the production of the cash crop.
The upper legislative chamber also called on the private sector to partner state governments to embark on revolutionary transformation of palm oil production and creation of allied industries through backward integration as well as urging the government to provide adequate funds for other agricultural products to boost employment and food security in the country.
Similarly, the senate directed 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.
The resolutions were sequel to a motion, “Urgent need to halt the importation of palm oil and its allied products to protect the palm oil/kernel industry in Nigeria” by Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC Edo North)
Leading debate on the motion, Senator Alimikhena lamented that “the unbridled importation of palm kernel and allied palm products into Nigeria which is threatening the federal government’s campaign for the diversification of the economy through increased agricultural production and exports”.
According to him, Nigeria had since 2017, imported 450,000 tons of palm oil to the tune of N116.3billion, is as grim a reality as it is worrisome.
“With an ever increasing population, a steady decline in palm oil production, and a proliferation of the uses of various products from palm oil, it is an economic fact that there is high demand for palm oil in Nigeria”, he said.
Senator Alimikhena, who is the Senate Deputy Whip, noted 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”.
“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”, he maintained.
In his contribution, the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan stressed the need for the federal and state governments to revive the oil palm industry, noting that it remains one of the ways the country could reduce poverty and create mass employment for the populace.
He, however, pointed out that the National Assembly would support the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research with adequate allocation of funds for effective performance of its role as well as other agric produce.
Also, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso (APC Kano Central) noted that importation of palm oil and kernel is killing local industries and wanted ban on all other agricultural produce with potential of being produced in the country.
In his remarks, the deputy senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided at the plenary noted that palm oil used to be the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy and expressed belief that it could still revived to play its role of creating employment, foreign exchange and food security.
He recalled that through palm tree, a lot of products were realized, especially red oil for cooking, brooms, soap, and firewood among others.