Ghana is losing some US$300 million in locally generated revenues annually due to challenges in land acquisition for palm nut plantations and technological hindrances in the cultivation of the crop. Palm oil is a major industrial input used for many manufactured personal care products as well as processed foods.
However Ghana remains a major importer of the product despite having a few large scale plantations that have proved to be successful, using the out grower farming system that employs hundreds of small scale farmers guaranteeing them incomes. However, production from such projects, such as Benso Oil Palm Plantation and Twifo Oil Palm Plantation is far short of local demand forcing manufacturers to import heavily from Malaysia and Indonesia, two countries which incidentally started their own oil palm industries at the same time as Ghana.
Instructively, the Artisanal Palm Oil Millers and Outgrowers Association, wants government to salvage the situation by allocating land banks for commercial oil palm production by artisanal farmers who account for about two thirds of the country’s palm oil cultivation.
The association has indicated that the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) and Ministry of Trade and Industry must act swiftly to give priority to the crop’s cultivation and thus save huge foreign exchange outlays on imports.
A farmer needs about GHc7, 000 to cultivate a hectare of palm with the returns estimated at 18 metric tonnes per hectare, valued at GHc54, 000.
President of the Association, Paul Kwabena Amaning, told the Goldstreet Business that the country is losing close to US$300 million each year which is spent on imports, and the amount could double in the next two years.
“The shortfall currently stands at 130 metric tonnes considering the amount of palm that Ghana imports for industries”, Amaning said.
He however said it was difficult acquiring credit from financial institutions for farming purposes due to volatility of startups particularly in the agriculture sector.
Artisanal oil palm production currently accounts for 70% of the country’s total output with about 3,000 members being part of the association.
At the launch of Wilmar International Ghana’s rebranded Frytol cooking oil last year, the company’s CEO, Mr. Kwame Wiafe, explained to the Goldstreet Business that Wilmar relies heavily on imported palm nuts from Indonesia and Malaysia to feed its industry in Tema.
He said the situation is worrying because the company spends a lot of money importing from those two countries.
“Wilmar’s palm plantation which is the Benso Oil Palm Plantation is not able to produce enough and we wish we could have additional alternatives here,” he said.
By Wisdom Jonny-Nuekpe