28/04/2008 (AllAfrica.com) - That palm oil production is yet another agricultural sector that remained untapped by Nigerian farmers is not in dispute. Oil from palm is used for virtually every thing. It is used for cooking, making soap and pomade etc.
With its tropical climate, rich soil and relatively adequate rainfall, Nigeria is regarded as one of the most naturally endowed countries in palm oil production, even before Malaysia was said to have taken over after importing palm fruits from Nigeria.
Agriculture experts have identified lack of proper focus as inimical to the growth and development of oil palm production in the country.
Such experts have continued to worry about the future of palm produce, where the wild groves are ageing and no provision to replace them.
At the breeding center, Acharu-Egume, Dekina local government area of Kogi State, the experimental station of National Institute for Oil Research, (NIFOR), the plantation which was there since 1961 was what the production of palm oil depends on.
The NIFOR operation secured an estimated 385 hectares of land, but only 90 hectares has so far been put to use by the institute. Within this arrangement, there have been 10 trials, but 5 units have been completed and put on observation, while the remaining five are still on trials.
According to the experts, the result of the experiment is something that should gladden the minds of the people, who should have no business with scarcity of oil palm at all.
The aim of NIFOR in intensifying the experiment on palm oil produce, according to the representative in Acharu-Egume, site of the palm plantation, Mr Samuel Omoreghe, is to evolve a "robust, practical and sustainable palm oil production for the country.
"The effort is aimed at developing oil palm in Nigeria to a level where it becomes the highest foreign exchange earner for the country."
"We also want to enrich palm oil producers and boost gainful employment opportunity for Nigerians," he said.
He said the country has a lot of potentials but noted that most of the opportunities were underutilised. "We need a mechanism to harness the wealth in this country. Nigeria has a lot of potentials and we must work to harness them," he said.
The Acharu Oil Mill in Egume, Kogi State today is ashadow of its old self. It was last talked about in 1996 when the then governor of Kogi state, Col Paul Umeruo reactivated it. Since then this gigantic engine has been abandoned by successive governments in the state.
When it was functional, Engr Mohammed Sani said the mill employed over 50 workers but since it broke down, they have all gone into the labour market.
"People used to come from far and near with their palm for milling and at the end of the day 10 drums of palm oil, averagely were produced in a day, " he said.
He called on government to, as a matter of urgency revive the palm farming and oil milling business in Nigeria.
For now NIFOR has designed a Small Scale Processing Engine SSPE, in Acharu to cushion the pains of oil producers.
Though manual, agriculture expert see it as yet another stepping stone. There is a consensus among experts that palm oil could fetch the country lots of foreign earnings if taken seriously. Kogi State is one of the largest producers of Palm oil in Nigeria.