The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said his government has in the past seven years undertaken an aggressive oil palm development project to drive investment across the entire agricultural value chain and boost the economy of the State.
Obaseki, while speaking to journalists in Benin City, said his administration has been very keen on using oil palm as an agricultural product to attract huge investments, noting that the government has allocated over 70,000 hectares of new lands to investors for oil palm cultivation.
He said, “If you think about this, palm oil is really indigenous to us here. We have seen people come here, collaborate with us, take materials from us, and take them back to their country and see how they have used it to transform their economies like Malaysia and Indonesia. Today, you know what Indonesia earns from oil palm.
“Don’t forget that oil palm is the most prolific edible plant in the world. You get more yield than groundnuts and others. For us, that’s the reason why we’ve been very keen on using oil palm as an agricultural product to attract huge investments. It will be difficult to find somebody who will give us half a billion dollars for cassava. But with oil palm, because of its very nature, it is easy to get investments.”
According to him, “These investments are not only in terms of mechanization but skills – agronomic skills and other skills for proper farming practices. These are needed to help you develop your agricultural industry. The reason we have been very aggressive is that if we are able to bring in investment for oil palm, then we have brought in the business and investment to develop the entire agricultural sector. It’s very strategic and deliberate and this is going to impact the economy greatly.”
The governor added, “You know, we have given out up to 70,000 hectares of new lands in addition to what has been cultivated by the two major companies already investing in oil palm in Edo. Assuming for each hectare, you need 50 people to cultivate it, at 70,000 hectares, you already have how many jobs?”
The Obaseki-led administration created the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP), which targeted producing, protecting, and rehabilitating the oil palm sector by developing the oil palm program that creates jobs, provides livelihood, and contributes to forest management and restoration.
Over 180,000 hectares of land have been set aside to be allocated to investors and investments of more than $500 million have been attracted through this programme. Today, Edo has the largest oil palm plantation program in Africa, championed by Dufil, Saro Africa, and other new entrants into the Edo oil palm industry in addition to the already established ones like Presco and Okomu, among others.