The Senate on Tuesday called on Federal Government to support improved production of palm oil to meet the domestic need of the market and increase exports for forex exchange earnings.
It also called on the Federal Government to revive the moribund Nigeria Institute of Oil Palm Research in Benin to improve investment in research and production of quality oil palm seeds in the country.
This followed a motion sponsored by Sen. Onyewuchi Ezenwa, (Imo East) and co-sponsored by other 15 senators on the urgent need to revive the palm oil industry in Nigeria at the plenary.
Moving the motion, Ezenwa said it was worrisome that Nigeria spent 500 million dollars on oil palm importation annually in spite of being the largest producer and exporter of the product in the 50s and 60s.
He said that Nigeria was now the net importer of palm oil, importing between 400,000 to 600,000 metric tonnes to meet its local demand.
He stressed that it was indefensible for Nigeria to be importing, given the presence of suitable weather and good soil conditions for the growth of palm oil.
Ezenwa said that the neglect of palm oil products and other cash crops had made it difficult for the country to achieve its set targets of diversifying the economy from crude oil reliance.
“If Nigeria refuses to harness the full potential of the oil palm industry as an economic opportunity, it will continue to fall behind other global economies,” he said.
He expressed worry that NIFOR, which had the mandate to conduct research on improved varieties of oil palm seedlings for commercial production, had been limited due to poor funding and obsolete infrastructure.