The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has disclosed the central bank’s resolve to lead the revitalisation of the oil palm sector in Nigeria in order to provide jobs for Nigerians.
Emefiele, made the pledge after meeting with rice processing companies in Nigeria in Abuja at the weekend. The meeting between the management of the CBN and oil palm value chain stakeholders also agreed on a road map to resolve the challenges in the oil palm value chain in Nigeria.
The CBN boss expressed concern at the contrasting fortunes of Nigeria from being the largest producer of palm oil worldwide in the late 1950s and 1960s, to becoming a net importer of the commodity from the 1980s to date. According to him, Nigeria currently lags behind in a distant fifth position in world production, behind countries that many years ago sent emissaries to Nigeria to learn production techniques and to get their first seedlings.
Emefiele also decried the practice where huge amounts was being spent to import items that could ordinarily be produced locally, even as he stressed the need for all stakeholders to collaborate to restore the glory days to the oil palm sector in the country.
While recalling the recent policy of the CBN that excluded 41 items from being procured with foreign exchange from the Nigerian foreign exchange markets (interbank and BDCs), a statement from the CBN explained that Emefiele reiterated that the policy measure was introduced to help conserve Nigeria’s foreign reserves as well as facilitate the resuscitation of domestic industries and improve employment generation in the country.
He said the CBN decided to take the lead and play a major role in the resuscitation of the oil palm sector and decided to take a bold step to include palm kernel, palm oil products and vegetable oils in the exclusion list of items not valid for foreign exchange at the Nigerian Foreign Exchange window.
Emefiele also reiterated that the decision taken by the CBN to include palm oil products in the exclusion list was taken after a thorough analysis of the sub sector. This, he said, was taken in the overall interest of the country, for the resuscitation of the local oil palm industry and to improve employment generation in the country.
“For the country to attain self-sufficiency there has to be committed development of more estate plantations and coordinated partnerships between the small holder plantation farmers and processors,” he said.
Accordingly, he said the CBN, as part of its developmental initiatives, had introduced the ‘Anchor Borrower Programme’ designed to create economic linkages between small holder farmers and processors by organising farmers into cooperatives to boost production and take advantages of economics of scale While enjoining all stakeholders to see the present situation as an opportunity rather than an adversity, he charged all to collaborate with the CBN to ensure that the country stops exporting jobs abroad and in the process importing poverty.
In their respective remarks, the stakeholders commended the move by the CBN to lead the revamp of the oil palm value chain, which they agreed had been in crisis for several decades. They however called for the strengthening of research and development as well as a dedicated Fund for tree crop development, among others.
The CBN management had last week in Abuja met with officials of state governments and rice processing companies to strategise on increasing the low utilization capacities of rice mills in Nigeria.
Present at the ceremony then were the Deputy Governor, Economic Policy, Mrs. Sarah Alade, other top management staff of the Bank and stakeholders in the oil palm value chain.