The Managing Director of Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc, Dr. Graham Hefer has disclosed that about 103,000 tons of palm oil products were illegally imported into the country from Malaysia in the first quarter of 2019.
According to him, despite the fact that palm oil is among the list of 41 items prohibited by the Central Bank of Nigeria from accessing foreign exchange (forex) via the official window market, the illegal importation of the commodity has continued to threaten the sector.
Furthermore, Mr Hefer explained that records from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board have shown that Nigerian importers have been besieging Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the importation of crude palm oil and olein into the Nigerian market.
he further explained that the 103,000 tons of palm products that were imported into Nigeria in Q1 2019 constitute about four times the size of palm oil products that were illegally imported in 2018.
The Negative Implications: Mr Hefer stated that it takes about N50 million to set up a palm oil refinery. Unfortunately, the illegal activities of palm oil importers are scaring away potential investors from the sector.
He also emphasised that the growth of local industries in the oil palm sector has been doomed, due to heavy importation of foreign brands. This is because imported brands crash the price of palm oil in the local market, thereby putting investments at risk.
The Solutions: Hefer lamented that the Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria lacked the government’s incentives and programmes to further promote palm oil farming and production in the country.
“Right now, there is no financial credit, technological support and other assistance from government and its agencies for our members that have injected billions of U.S. dollars into the industry, Whereas the cost of establishing a petroleum refinery is estimated at $500 billion, while a mere N50 million can be used to set up a palm oil refinery that can be replicated across the oil palm belt of Nigeria.”
He also advocated that beyond merely banning the importation of palm oil into the country, the Government should also ensure strict compliance and enforcement at the borders the same way it currently does for crude oil.