Article from New telegraph - 31/03/2018 - Inwalomhe Donald
Okomu’s oil palm plantation is a key industry to the country’s economy: the export of palm oil is an important foreign exchange earner while the industry provides employment opportunities to thousands of Nigerians. In terms of agriculture, palm oil is one of the most important industries in Nigeria contributing between 1.5 to 2.5 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Okomu oil plays a very modest role in the Nigerian palm oil sector as it own relatively few plantations. To spur growth in the downstream palm oil industry, the export tax on refined palm oil products must be slashed to encourage companies in the palm oil business.
Nigeria is one largest oil palm grower in Africa and worldwide and policies must be enacted to ensure that Nigeria plays an important role in future palm oil markets. Okomu Oil Extension 2 is a model for future expansion of plantations in Nigeria. A model for future expansion that will incorporates the impact of governmental policies (normative and economic that support the palm oil sector) through a Time Series Intervention. The model will take care of socioeconomic variables associated with the expansion of oil palm plantations.
Chairman of Okomu Oil Company Plc., Gbenga Oyebode (SAN), has pledged that the company is committed to creating not less than 40,000 jobs with expansion of the company’s operations into 10 communities in the state, representing 20 per cent of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s 200,000 jobs creation target in Edo State. Oyebode said this at the commissioning of the Okomu Extension 2 Plantation in Ovia North East Local Government Area, which was witnessed by captains of industries, Benin high chiefs and members of the companies’ host community. He said that the Edo State Government’s support had been tremendous, noting; “we expect to plant the whole 11,400 hectares by next year. Then in 2020, we will start milling. For us, the state government has been phenomenal. It shows that the state government is not just in full support of agribusiness but of commercial enterprise.”
On his company’s support for Obaseki’s job creation drive, he said: “We expect to contribute to the governor’s job creation drive and we have already started. Right now, we are at 2,000. Our expectation is that before we get to 2020, we would have created 4,000 jobs. There is a multiplier effect, however, of that 4,000 we are looking at, we are going to have 40,000 new jobs that would be directly linked to this company.” The jobs include those to be generated from the activities of contractors, out-growers, suppliers, maintenance and security services, and other agro-allied activities needed for the proper running of the plantation.
Commissioning the new estate, the governor said that Edo State is working towards attaining the status of an economic hub with the expansion project, and that raw materials from the plant would be deployed to factories at the Benin Industrial Park when it commences operation. He said he was impressed with the speed of development at the plantation, noting that it was a landmark achievement to have cultivated 9,000 hectares of oil palm in a year.
Explaining that he was impressed with the speed of development at the plantation, the governor noted that it was a landmark achievement to have cultivated 9,000 hectares of oil palm in a year, assuring that he would continue to support the company as long as they continue to expand in the state.
“They were able to prepare and cultivate 9,000 hectares of land in one year. Can you imagine if we had more companies expanding at this pace; the amount of jobs and economic activity that they will create. I think this is a feat and it is amazing”, Obaseki said.
Managing Director, Okomu Plc, Graham Hefer, said that the company is committed to contributing to the state and Nigeria’s economy by creating jobs, boosting productivity and impacting lives. Hefer who said Okomu Oil is the highest employer of labour in Edo State, disclosed that the company has employed no fewer than 2,500 workers in its Extension 2 plantation in Ovia North East Local Council to complement the government’s efforts in creating jobs to address youth unemployment.
Hefer explained that the expansion, which includes Extensions I and II, was to increase production of palm oil to meet and satisfy future demand, noting that the brand has become a household name in Nigeria. He added that the successes recorded by the company were due to the spirit demonstrated by the management team, stressing that, they have “an excellent management team from the establishment of the plantations in Udo and Extension II in Ovia North East Local Council Area.” Furthermore, Okomu wants to start building a new 60t/hr oil mill at Extention II in 2018, after completion of the necessary Environmental Impact Assessments worth N16 billion. This shows the company’s commitment to Edo State now and the future, he stated.
The Okomu Oil Extension II is a Model that would stimulate agricultural development in all ramifications. It is designed to reach local people and attract youths into agriculture. The Okomu Oil Extension 2 Model is recommended for research use for the Federal Government of Nigeria and the World Bank. In this extension palm oil is produced and will engage contractors, experts and social workers.
Since the palm oil expansion is aimed to alleviate the poverty of agricultural communities in Nigeria, both the government and businesses should assist smallholders in planting this crop, which is different from their usual produce of coconut, sugar, cacao and others. Government increase education and training opportunities to farmers, set up a cooperative model, indicate a minimum price of palm oil to protect farmers’ income, and establish private-public partnerships to lease lands for building mills.