Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, announced the plan in Abuja at the signing of the agreement for Estate Participation in the oil palm nursery and field planting activity.
The minister explained that the country would have achieved the target if it had made use of its oil palm industry in 1961.
“Nigeria used to be the largest exporter of palm oil in the 1960s until Malaysia came here and got its improved palm nuts from Nigeria.
“Now Malaysia makes $18 billion from oil palm export. We want to get back to when palm oil used to be the mainstay of our economy,” Adesina said.
He said the situation changed following the anomaly caused by the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in the 1970s.
The minister said Nigeria produced only 1.3 million tonnes of vegetable oil and imported more than 350,000 tonnes of vegetable oil annually.
He said the business cost the country 500 million dollars in foreign exchange and described the situation as unacceptable.
Adesina said that President Goodluck Jonathan under ATA had taken advantage of the palm oil industry, which contributed 72 per cent of the nation’s vegetable oil.
He said the ministry planned to support the production of 240,000 hectares of oil palm in the next three years through smallholder farmers and oil palm estates.
Adesina said that the ministry had set a target of raising nine million improved sprouted nuts into mature seedlings for the establishment of 60,000 hectares by 2013.
The minister said that the estate activity was a public-private partnership in which the ministry had provided free improved nuts for the palm estates.
“The estates are required to plant and nurse the nuts for the next 10 to 12 months and thereafter transplant to their own plantations by August 2013,’’ Adesina said.
He said that the idea to provide improved nuts for the estates was based on its high yielding capacity estimated at over 21 tonnes per hectare.
Mrs Wilma Aguele, Managing Director of Wilbali Investment Ltd. on behalf of the palm oil estates, commended the ministry for its initiative.
She promised that the ministry would not regret selecting them as pioneer pilot groups to benefit from the initiative.
In his remarks, Alhaji Bukar Tijani, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, stressed that Jonathan was determined to bring back the days when palm oil was one of the main contributors to the economy.
He said the ministry would provide the necessary income for smallholder farmers in palm oil production.