Oil Palm Master Plan Ready

Government says it is ready to officially unveil the nation’s Oil Palm Master Plan and the national Tree Crop policy documents tomorrow, to raise the country's competitiveness in commodities production within the next 15 years. Dubbed the ‘Oil Palm Master Plan’, it is expected to boost the nation’s competitiveness in the global commodities market and also enable it to meet the local demand estimated at 295,000 metric tonnes for the manufacturing industry and for local consumption. The ‘Oil Palm Master Plan’ is expected to become the blue print, which will outline the set of projects and programmes to be executed for the sector’s growth. It will focus on access to financing, certification, land-use policy, technology transfer, and infrastructure development from the farm to the port, as well as pricing mechanism and marketing. Approximately, 305,700 hectares of oil palm plantation is being cultivated nationwide and an additional 20,000 hectares of oil palm farm is needed to meet the local demand. In 2010, oil palm processing groups projected a production output of 260,000 metric tonnes of palm oil which indicates a deficit of 35,000 metric tonnes leaving government with no option but to spend US$100 million annually on the importation of oil palm to make up for the deficit. An estimated unmet demand of oil palm in ECOWAS sub-region is between 850,000 metric tonnes and 1,000,000 metric tonnes annually, a huge market which the country can take advantage of if properly managed. The country is said to have a total area of 305,758 hectors of oil palm. More than 80 percent of this is cultivated by private small-scale farmers who mostly use volunteer of unimproved planting materials. This has contributed to the very low productivity of the Ghanaian oil palm industry. The rising trend in international demand has been precipitated by increasing demand for palm oil for bio-fuel purposes. Crude Petroleum Price determinants continue to push upwards pressure on the price, and demand for Crude Palm Oil (CPO) is steadily rising in India, China, Europe and the America for bio-fuel. In view of this development, investors have been diverting their investment portfolios into CPO. Joseph Baidoo-Williams, Head of Tree Crops Development Unit, Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) told the B&FT in an interview that the development of the plan would make it very easy to attract donor support to enhance palm oil production. “The policy document aimed at maximising development outcomes for the communities while supporting smaller businesses, as well as alleviating poverty. “Government has identified the palm oil sector as holding tremendous potential to create jobs and reduce poverty and as such would give the necessary support to enable it to contribute to the development of the economy,” Mr. Baidoo-Williams said. He explained that the government would support two new oil-palm out-grower schemes next year in the Western Region. “Feasibility studies for the two schemes will start in August this year and that government has already engaged Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), the French Development Agency, to finance the schemes which are expected to help 750 farmers cultivate 3000 hectares of oil palm. “The Master Plan when fully launched will see the support and development of a new 10,000 hectares nucleus plantation with a 40,000 hectare out-grower scheme – hopefully, in the Prestea-Huni Valley District,” he said. The country’s major producers, Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP) and Twifo Oil Palm Plantation (TOPP), Ghana Oil Palm Development and Norpalm, a Norwegian firm turn out around 80,000 tonnes per annum as against 90,000 tonnes demanded by Unilever alone. Malaysia, the country, which took the oil palm seeds away from Nigeria several years ago, is planning to flood the market from its silos in the country. Malaysia remains the world’s second-largest exporter of palm oil after Indonesia. The two countries account for 85 percent of global production of palm oil.