How oil palm seedlings business can take youths off streets

Fatai Afolabi, a former Executive Secretary, Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON) and CEO of Foremost Consultancy Services, disclosed that the shortage in oil palm production presents an opportunity for youths in Nigeria as more plantations are established amid scarcity of improved and high-yielding varieties of oil palm seedlings. FEMI IBIROGBA reports.

Stakeholders in the oil palm industry have identified sourcing oil palm seedlings as a big challenge. How can youths play active roles in seedling production?
The only source of the oil palm seeds in Nigeria is the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR). I am positive that it will create an enormous avenue for private sector players and young individuals who are concerned and interested in setting up oil palm businesses.

To set up a nursery, the seeds are important. The farmer may decide to establish a one or two-stage nursery and raise the seedlings based on the efficiency of the production (for at least one year or 15 months at the maximum), then they could sell for plantation development. This is to ensure quality assurance so as to ascertain the originality of the seedlings (making sure it is unadulterated and typically Tennera)

For youths who are interested in the oil palm business, is there a training platform that would expose them to the practicality of the industry and from which they can gain mastery?
What is needed, first of all, is a passion for agriculture. Having indicated interest, the youth can proceed to NIFOR to get accreditation and certification as an oil palm seedling producers for NIFOR. Although, this is not the only source of Tenera seedlings. Persons who are interested in the oil palm value chain can also get accreditation outside Nigeria.

What basic facilities are required to set up an oil palm nursery?
There are ratios stipulated specifically for nursery establishment. However, a large expanse of land is not really essential in owning or setting up an oil palm nursery. The basic requirement is water (clean water). Hence, water supply must be adequate and sufficient as it is the major prerequisite.

Is erecting a shed also necessary to prevent insect infestation?
It is highly dependent on the stage selected by the farmer. For the two-stage nursery, there must be a shed which will have the seedlings packed in close range (closely packed). Afterwards, they proceed to the next stage, which requires spacing the seedlings by putting them in body bags where they will be kept for a few months, after which, they will be up for sale.

Is this a sustainable source of livelihood?
Yes, of course. There are numerous plantations that are making enormous returns from raising and selling quality oil palm seedlings.

How much does a good quality oil palm seedling cost?
A good quality seedling can be sold between the price range of N800 to N1,000. The unfortunate thing is that, most-small scale farmers wait for NIFOR’s seedling, which is offered at N200. Regardless of this, the price of sprouted nuts (an oil palm seed) has remained constant in the last five years.

Where can farmers purchase these sprouted seeds?
There are companies that offer such services, like SERAD, IRHO, Ghana Sinatra (which is situated in Ghana). While NIFOR sold at N200 and five years later, NIFOR has still retained its selling price. However, the price of seedlings from private sectors reflects the foreign exchange value of naira, thus, they are sold at a higher price which is to the detriment of small-scale farmers who would rely on NIFOR’s supply chain.

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