Oil Palm Farming in Nigeria

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Oil Palm originated from West Africa.

Grows in bunches with each carrying up to 1000 egg-shaped fruits that weigh 50 kg.

Nigeria is the 2nd leading exporter of palm oil after Malaysia.

Main Growing Areas

Forest belt around port Harcourt where it’s grown on small farms and Sapele and Calabar where it‟s grown in estates.

Conditions Favouring Oil Farming in Nigeria

Physical Factors

  • High temperatures throughout the year (over 21◦c).
  • Heavy and well distributed rainfall throughout the year.
  • High relative humidity.
  • Well drained porous and fertile soils.
  • Undulating land which is less exposed to strong winds.

Human Factors

  • Abundant labour for clearing land, tendering seedlings, regular weeding, etc.
  • Proper transport network for harvested fruits to reach the processing factories the same day so as not to change into fatty acids.
  • Location of processing factories within or near growing areas since oil palms are perishable and must be processed the same day.
  • Efficient management to ensure that the crops are inspected frequently for any disease or pest attack for spraying to be done to control their spread.
  • Capital to pay labour wages, maintain feeder roads, vehicles and factories.

Cultivation of Oil Palm

  • Oil palm seeds are planted in a nursery where they are watered and sprayed.
  • They are transplanted in the field after one year.
  • They are inter-planted with food crops to force the farmer to weed the fields regularly.
  • The plants are inspected regularly for pests and diseases and sprayed promptly.
  • The palms reach maturity after 10 years by changing their colour to deep orange or red.

Harvesting of Oil Palm

Harvested by cutting the base of the bunch using a curved knife tied on a long pole.

The fruits are immediately collected and transported to the factory in lorries.

Processing of Oil from Oil Palm Fruit

Traditional Technique

  • Fruits are removed from the stalk and boiled in metal drums for up to 3 hours.
  • They are then put in boat like containers and pounded using pestles until pericarp becomes pulp.
  • The nut and the softened pericarp are then put in a hand press and oil squeezed out of the pulp.
  • The nuts are cracked and oil squeezed out of kernels for domestic use.
  • The method produces very little oil which lacks consistency in quality.

Use of Pioneer Mills

  • Bunches are put in tube-like cages with holes all around.
  • Then cooked by hot steam to ensure they don‟t change into fatty acids.
  • Bunches are shaken off stocks using a machine called a stripper.
  • Then cooked in digesters.
  • The pericarp is separated from the nut.
  • It’s pressed to remove the oil.
  • The oil is left to settle in tanks so that impurities settle at the bottom.
  • The nuts are cracked to remove the kernels using grinders.
  • The kernels are pressed to produce oil or may be packed whole and exported.

Uses of Palm Oil

  • Used domestically for cooking, lighting and polishing.
  • Used in the manufacture of cooking fats, soaps and candles.
  • Kernel is used to make expensive cooking oil, margarine, cosmetics and oil soaps.
  • Used as a cleaning agent in industries.

Uses of Palm Tree

  • Palm leaves are used for thatching, making mats, baskets and brooms.
  • Pericarp fibres and nut shells are used as fuel.
  • Palm trees are used as building poles.
  • The tree is tapped for its sap which is fermented to make palm wine.

Marketing of Oil Palm

Most palm oil and kernels are consumed locally and less than 50% is exported.

Most of the kernels are exported to Britain, W. Europe and U.S.A.

Significance of Oil Palm to Nigeria’s Economy

  • It’s a source of foreign exchange.
  • It saves some of foreign exchange.
  • Provides employment to people as farm hands, processing, etc which raises their standard of living.
  • Has led to development of infrastructure to link processing areas with processing factories.
  • Promoted development of industries where it‟s used as a raw material e.g. making cosmetics, toilet soaps etc.
  • Farmers earn regular income which raises their standard of living.

Problems Facing Oil Palm Farming in Nigeria

  • Pests and diseases which young plants due to their vulnerability which calls for regular spraying which is expensive.Mocks,
  • Inadequate capital to purchase inputs leading to low yields.
  • Transport problems in some areas due to impassable roads leading to delays in delivering fruits to processing mills leading to low-quality oil.
  • Government policy to encourage food production to reduce food importation which lowers oil palm production.

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