Joe Onyiuke, National President of Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria, OPGAN, has given insight into the plans taken by the body to reorganize oil palm business to meet up with the desired standards. He spoke with EMMA OKEREH and DANIEL TYOKUA, on the measures being evolved.
Onyiuke said the umbrella body of oil palm farmers in the country, OPGAN, so far has members in 27 States of the federation representing all the Oil palm zones. They are majorly small holders and large scale growers.
He explained that since the inception of the association major focus has been on putting the headquarters and State offices in a better position for effective operations.
The president stated that his leadership was keen on areas that will create a market that can add value to the economy, create jobs for the unemployed Nigerians.
Though he said the Association has since embarked on free membership drive and data compturing to avert quackery in the system.
“we don’t want to have ghost farmers, all our farmers are the ones who own plantations in the business of Oil palm, we are mostly rooted at the grassroot level where the main farm is, so there is nothing like political farmers or ghost farmers”
Onyiuke noted that the association in a bid to strengthen the market raised local government coordinators who are in-charge of all the villages.
“The body operates what is called clauster system or cooperative, the clauster system is based on the geographical areas, our members are group together for proper management and acountability, so that whatever we are bringing from the centre goes down to the people directly.
“Whatever comes from the national goes to the State, and state to the coordinators and to the cooperative, so we are better organized today, we are working on the processing because the gap in the importation of Oil is too much.
“Our major problem now is how to bring back our lost glory and to be systematic, what we are enjoying today is what our forefathers did in the 1960’s, we are having serious training so that our production can meet the international standard”
He stated that oil palm is needed mostly in all factories because of the key role it plays.
“Oil palm is needed in many industries like Pharmacitical industry, cosmetic industry, detergents industry, the America, Europeans always demand for our oil, but to meet up with the demand we need to change the narrative, we need to be processing our oil palm in Nigeria”
Onyiuke acknowledged the federal government’s commitment to uplift the oil palm production, considering the positive response.
“The federal government has been very responsive, like the ministry of Agriculture, the ministry of trade and investment, they are working very hard to support us, on our part we are working hard to increase our production capacity, as a cooperative is our duty to train our members, to make sure whatever we produce, we have market and today we have market both locally and internationally”
He said what is left for the association to achieve presently was funding, “we expect the government to help us in the area of funding to increase our production capacity, we stand at the bottom to support the government and our country, so that is our work.Everything we do is made of oil palm.
“Countries like Malasia and Indonesia took it upon themselves, their government supported them massively, what they get from oil palm today, we can’t even get from crude oil but we have everything that it takes,we have the energy, we have the resources”
He explained that presently the Association has a large number of members and is presently doing fresh registration across all the states.
According to him, the essence of membership drive was to creat a system where people we have the best oil in terms of processing, storage and importation.
“Right now we have plenty members, we are doing fresh registration, we are verifying them. You must have a farm if not you can not be a member, if you are an aspiring member we will register you as an aspiring member.
“We are engaging foreign companies to enhance proper storage, we have the stainless steel company, though we should first of all start Small,see how we can help to grow the small farmers and again give our members life insurance.
“The registration, our members are given free medical care, we have another insurance for accident.
“We need to stop all these importations because when you import, you import poverty from other countries to your country. Palm oil is highly medicinal”