- Local producers can’t meet demand
- Low investment contains growth
The Ashanti Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Rev. John Manu, has called for investment in research to identify products that could be commercialised from oil palm, as the demand for the cash crop and allied products increase.
“We’ve realised that there are a lot of products that can be made from oil palm, but we haven’t done much as far as product development is concerned,” he said.
Oil palm cultivation is one of the most profitable land uses in the tropics. For the main producing countries, palm oil can significantly contribute to national economies – driving rapid economic growth and contributing to the alleviation of rural poverty.
Indeed, palm oil and palm kernel oil-based ingredients are found in approximately 50% of products on supermarket shelves, including food and non-food items.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture data show that Ghana currently has a total of 305,758ha of oil palm. More than 80% of this is cultivated by private small-scale farmers. It is estimated that 243,852 tonnes of palm oil is being produced.
Ghana currently has an unmet demand of 35,000 tonnes of palm oil. The broader ECOWAS sub-region has an unmet demand of 850,000 tonnes. This presents an opportunity for Ghana to scale-up production of the cash crop to satisfy local and regional demand for much-needed foreign exchange.
In Indonesia, for instance, the average income in a complete financial year of an oil palm plantation is about US$2,500 per hectare, compared to only US$250 for a rice plantation.
According to the Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit, there are an estimated 25 million Indonesians living indirectly from palm oil production.
Sustainable oil palm production
The unsustainable production of the crop has potentially negative economic consequences at local and global levels in contributing to habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change.
Preserving and restoring the forest is critical to averting the most dangerous climate change and achieving global goals.
According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, about 10% of global greenhouse emissions are tied to deforestation; with up to 20% of all the abatement potential identified in the land-use sector.
But Rev. Manu said to lessen the impact of commercial agriculture on the environment, there is a need to encourage agroforestry – interspersing commercial crops with some tree crops to fight deforestation.
“This is one of the systems being promoted so that we do not see all our forest going away,” he said at a three-day training of trainer’s course themed ‘Oil Palm Cultivation: Best Management Practice’, at Fumesua in the Ashanti Region.
With the world’s population predicted to reach nine billion by 2050, it is estimated that 70% more food calories will be needed.
He said: “Over the past decades, meeting the rising demand for food and consumer goods has often come at the expense of forests – making commercial agriculture the main driver of tropical deforestation”.
He mentioned that the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020, a global multi-stakeholder partnership, is working to stop commodity-driven deforestation through dedicated public/private collaborations.
Ghana became a member of the TFA 2020 Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI) in 2015, and shares the vision of achieving a prosperous palm oil industry which provides jobs and wealth to local communities – in a way that is environmentally and socially sustainable and protects forestry reserves.
MoFA has played a significant role in TFA 2020 activities at the global, regional and national levels. It partnered with the TFA 2020 APOI and key stakeholders to develop a set of principles and actions to guide the sustainable production of oil palm in Ghana.
The training of trainer’s workshop is a collaborative effort by TFA 2020 APOI Ghana National Platform, Proforest, Solidaridad and MoFA.
The workshop is aimed at enhancing the knowledge and skills of Agricultural Extension Officers and providing a platform for the exchange of ideas on sustainable oil production.
It is expected that Agricultural Extension Officers will share the knowledge and skills acquired during the training with others who could not be part, while disseminating the message of sustainable oil palm cultivation in rural communities within the oil palm belt of the country.