Nigerian farmers need support to overtake Indonesia on oil palm production – Aba-based industrialist
Nigeria is capable of overtaking Indonesia and Malaysia in palm oil production if the government supports real farmers in the country with funds and machinery, Celestine Odogwu, managing director, Winners United Farms and Agro Industries, has observed.
Odogwu, an Aba-based industrialist, urged government agencies to interview small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) to find out what their problems are and how they could partner them, noting that some SMEs were not interested in cash, but machines.
“Government can also remove those I call ‘political farmers’ and deal with real farmers. These real farmers are not hidden; they could be reached in our communities through chambers of commerce and farmers associations.
“Government should also be practical in their support to farmers by removing all bottlenecks that have hampered small and medium entrepreneurs from accessing loans, like collateral and business plans,” he further said, stressing that real farmers did not have these.
“Most farmers are excluded from government funds because of lack of business plan. In organised climes, they address issues practically. Government should identify these farmers, link them up with financial institutions, donor agencies and watch them. If they do this, things will be turned around,” he stated.
Odogwu, a Malaysia-trained farmer, explained that he came up with Wufag Palm Oil to prove to the world that Nigeria was capable of producing good quality palm oil.
“We are all looking at how we can help our economy. After getting NAFDAC registration, we also applied for certification from SON, which we also got.
“Everybody is talking about importation; nobody is talking about export. It is only export that can help the country because we would create jobs and generate foreign exchange, through export business.”
He explained that Wufag brand of palm oil had 100 percent local content, noting that paucity of funds had made it difficult for the product to be in markets across the country.
“We cannot produce enough in commercial quantity. Even when you approach commercial banks, they will see you as another criminal, whereas they can see what you are creating,” Odogwu said.
Speaking on the uniqueness of Wufag brand of palm oil, Odogwu explained that the product was well refined, contained no impurities and enhanced with vitamin E.
He also stated that the moisture content of the product was 0.4 percent, while the British standard was 0.5 percent.
“Wufag is well purified. The fatty acid is okay and again the impurity is well filtered, making it 100 percent pure palm oil, not mixed with colorant or preservative or any other thing.
“It has a shelf life of two years. It is also cholesterol free. The cholesterol in palm oil is good, it is heart friendly. And it has export quality. We have few samples in the market, but due to paucity of funds, we have not been able to produce enough to meet demand,” he stated.
“At a point, we started looking for partners. We also wanted to partner with government to develop this product, to be in all markets locally and internationally,” he further said.
Odogwu, who had a sad experience in the hands of herdsmen and their cows that destroyed his oil palm plantation in Ogor Affa, in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State, in 2016, said his plan was to have a large oil palm plantation, like is obtainable in Malaysia and Indonesia, while the processing plant stood on its own.
“I want to create an oil palm value chain, whereby the oil mill will be separate from the plantation, thereby creating jobs for so many people.
“When you have your own plantation, you can produce all year round. The only thing that you’ll battle with is infrastructure.”
However, since his plantation is not ready, Odogwu said he often bought oil palm seeds from the open market.