The President of the Oil Palm Development Association of Ghana (OPDAG), Mr Samuel Avaala, has said the foundation on which to transition Ghana from a net importer of oil palm and related products, into a net exporter was for the country to develop an additional 100,000 hectares of the product.
That will add on to the 300,000 hectares currently, using best management practice.
In this way, he said the country will become self-sufficient and it will also create a lot of employment for rural folks, coupled with the many uses of other parts of the oil palm besides the fruits.
“Our imports of palm oil exceeds 400,000 metric tonnes (mt) and at the same time we also export. But we are a net importer. Totally we produce about 250,000 mt per annum locally but we consume more than that.”
“That is why we import while some of our members also export palm oil and it is refined products to countries such as Mali, Togo, and Burkina Faso,” he said during the first annual general meeting (AGM) of the association in Accra on September 11, 2019.
He said, the focus, will be to help smallholder farmers and out growers who make up 70 per cent of production, to improve their yields by applying best management practices.
“The 30 per cent is coming from the medium to large scale industrial players. We will have to be getting these smallholder and out grower to up their game.”
“By so doing we will double or even triple their yields and expand their operations in a sustainable manner, particularly deforestation and the rest,” he said.
Mr Avaala cited an intervention by Solidaridad West Africa, a non-governmental organisation, through its Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Project (SWAPP), in a period of four and half years, has developed the evidence based that through financial and technical support, smallholders can improve upon their farms for maximum profitability.
A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), “Oil palm industry growth in Africa: A value chain and smallholders study for Ghana,” states that the oil palm sector contributes between 1.5 to 2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It said palm oil as vegetable oil (fat and margarine, refined cooking oil and edible oil) constitutes almost 61 per cent of the palm oil-related product demand in Ghana, and about 65 per cent of the total demand in West Africa.
Mr Avaala cited the fibre of the oil palm can be used to generate energy, the effluent (liquid waste) is pumped to water the palms and not thrown away and solid are reused as empty bunch are taken back into the farm as manure, among others.
“So the oil palm even at the farm level everything has use and when it comes to value addition, the cooking oils, the margarines and manufacturing of soaps and others all come from oil palm,” he said.
The AGM and forum
The first OPDAG AGM was on theme, “Oil Palm; Agenda for Growth and Jobs creation,” and was attended by smallholders from the Eastern, Western, Central, Lower Volta and Ashanti regions and other stakeholders in the value chain.
As part of the AGM, an election was held and new executives were elected to steer the affairs of the Association over the next four years.
Mr Samuel Avaala maintained his position as the President after the elections. Mr Yaw Agyei-Agyepong was elected as the 1st Vice President and Mr Issa Ourdraogo became the 2nd Vice President.
Mr Horatio Pitcher was elected Treasurer and the Executive Secretary of the Association is now Mr Selorm Quame.