The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) has distributed 10,000 seedlings of improved variety of oil palm known as Tenera to farmers’ associations and cooperative societies for the 2017 planting season.

 Speaking at the presentation ceremony recently in Abuja, the Director-General/CEO of RMRDC, Dr. H. D. Ibrahim, said the distribution of the seedlings was targeted at boosting the production of agricultural raw materials for industrial use.

The DG who was represented by Dr. A. A. Ogunwusi, Director of Agriculture and Agro-Allied Department, said RMRDC had also distributed crops such as soybeans, groundnuts and other types of oil seeds to farmers so as to increase the production of high quality raw materials for use in the vegetable oil sub-sector of the national economy.

“The underlying objectives are to reduce importation and to promote diversification of the economy in order to save foreign exchange, create employment and to enhance development of the food, chemicals and pharmaceutical industries in Nigeria,” the DG pointed out.

Dr. Ibrahim further disclosed that under the Presidential Initiative, a programme to cultivate one million hectares of oil palm in five years was proposed, out of which 900,000 hectares are earmarked for smallholders, while 100,000 hectares are for large estates.

He said RMRDC was currently collaborating with private sector investors, NIFOR and members of the pharmaceutical sub-sector of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) to establish fatty alcohol and glycerine plants in the country and to use raw materials produced by farmers.

In a presentation at the event, the DG Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), Dr. Omorefe Asemota, who was represented by an official of the institute, said Nigeria being the fifth producer of oil palm in the world, produced one million tonnes per annum with a low yield of about one tonne per hectare.

He noted that the improved oil palm seedlings distributed to farmers matured in two and a half years and yielded between 20 to 25 tonnes per hectares of palm fruits, which translated to between four and five tonnes of palm oil per

Igwe Hilary Uche, the National President of Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), said the gesture was a welcome development for oil palm production in the country, adding that the industry could create 10 million jobs in the country.

On his part, the President, National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria, Engineer Henry Olatujoye, appealed to the council to make the gesture a yearly affair, adding that the council should also help in the area of data capturing of farmers in the country.

Engr Olatujoye also called on NIFOR to do more in getting improved seedlings to farmers.