Government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and with funding from KfW of Germany and Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) of France, has launched a 15 year Oil Palm Master Plan and a Tree Crops Policy in Accra.
The Oil Palm Master Plan is to boost the Nation’s competiveness in the global and local commodities market whilst the Tree Crops Policy is aimed at promoting a sustainable growth of the entire sub-sector, taking into account all the differences between the crops and the various production areas.
The Master Plan is to ensure that oil palm plantation development occurs in both large scale estate and small scale independent smallholder by proposing a 10,000 hectare nucleus estate and processing mill to be situated in the Prestea-Huni Valley District and smallholder oil palm development associated with the above nucleus estate on a scale of 5000 hectares per year to a total development of 40,000 hectares and a village sector programme – 110,000 hectare outgrower development where each independent smallholder is to be assisted to plant an average of 2 hectares of oil palms.
Additionally, the plan proposed milling support for processing where, a new processing mill is to be associated with the 10,000 hectare nucleus estate and a village level small scale mill transformation programme to support 1200 small scale mills throughout the country.
For valuation addition, the Master Plan, propose an expansion of cooking oil, soap, synthetic lubricants and margarine because of their high demand whilst at the same time, giving tax incentives to existing companies already engaged in manufacturing downstream products from oil palm to expand their facilities in rural areas.
In respect of the tree crops, the Policy which was developed following broad stakeholders consultations and in-depth analysis of the subsector is to support increased production and productivity; promote investment and increase processing capacities; improve marketing through value chain development; promote sustainable practices for environmental protection ; support research and development and improve coordination and management of the policy.
The Tree Crops Policy which is to be implemented over the next five years at $157 million will focus on Oil Palm, Cocoa, Coconut, Mangoes, Citrus, Cashew, Coffee, Dawadawa, Kola, Rubber and Shea-nut and it is the first of a set of tools developed by the government of Ghana to support the Tree Crops value-chain.
According to the Minister for Food and Agriculture, Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, who launched the two documents, demand for Oil Palm is growing particularly due to its growing usage in a wide range of products in addition to being the most competitively priced vegetable oil and accounting for more than half of the global import and export trade of all vegetable oils.
He further added that, with an estimated worldwide population increase of 11.6 percent and a 5 percent increase in per capital consumption, an additional 28 million tonnes of vegetable oils will have to be produced annually by 2020.
According to Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, the rational for developing oil palm production, particularly in Ghana, stems from the fact that, the crop is indigenous to Ghana and it is an important staple food in addition to being an extremely important component of many Ghanaian livelihoods ranging from small-scale growers, artisanal processors to estate labourers and large-scale mill and plantation owners.
Projections for future supply and demand in Ghana indicates that, there is huge export market opportunity for Ghana to take advantage of , particularly in West Africa where there is currently a supply gap of about 450,000 tonnes per annum which is also bound to increase over time.
He further added that, the present shortfall of Crude Palm Oil (CPO) supply will grow from 32,000 tonnes ( 160,000 tonnes of Fresh Fruit Bunch-FFB, 8889 hectares, 35,555 direct jobs in oil palm plantations: assuming 20 percentage oil extraction rate, 18 tonnes per hectare yields and 4 jobs per hectare) to 127,000 tonnes (141,000 direct jobs from 564,400 hectares) in 2004) indicating a deficit that requires to be filled.
Ghana’s competitive location for oil palm development compared to its immediate neighbours and the top global producers is also a factor.
Touching on the current status of Ghana’s Oil Palm industry, Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi said, the total area under oil palm in Ghana is 336,000 hectares with independent smallholdings producing over 1.2 million metric tonnes fresh fruit bunches (FFB) and estates processing over 400,000 metric tonnes of FFB per year.
He indicated that, yields from the estates are much higher than on smallholdings although they are still lower than what is being achieved in the Far East and La cote d’Ivoire, thus making Ghana, a relatively high cost producer in the context of the global industry.
He however added that, while developing local capacity in breeding better planting materials, Ghana could access new high yielding varieties developed elsewhere to double yields in Ghana.