The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc, Mr. Christos Giannopoulos, has said the oil palm plantation industry in Nigeria requires more competition in order to help the sector achieve its inherent potentials and drive it to global prominence.
Giannopoulos made the statement in Lagos, while briefing journalists on the company’s N100 billion investment into the development of over 30,000 hectares of oil palm plantation, in Cross River State.
According to the Managing Director, whose firm, PZ Cussons, is a holder of 50 per cent of the joint venture investment with the world’s largest oil palm plantation company Wilmar, the synergy between the two world class companies is expected to up the ante in Nigeria’s oil palm plantation industry as well as crude palm oil (CPO) production and processing.
“For example, the pricing of crude palm oil and vegetable oil in Nigeria can be improved on if more investment goes into local palm oil production and this would be in the best interest of the Nigerian consumer as well as the economy. This is what we have seen and we have decided to invest in the sector with a strategy which we call ‘from plantation to plate’,” he said.
He said the initiative would open up fresh investments in new plantation and refining facilities to world class standards resulting in significant job creation, production of quality, healthy cooking ingredients, support and facilitate the development of local agriculture and industry, in alignment with the Government’s 2020 vision.
In his words, “Over the next few years our investment in this project will be over N100 billion. We will develop 50,000 hectares of plantations creating 12,000 direct and over 33,000 indirect jobs at various skill levels. In addition, we have almost completed a world class refinery at a cost of N10 billion.”
He added that the refinery would process crude palm oil in the most hygienic way to fill the significant demand gap in the Nigerian market and also developing a range of branded healthy, authentic palm oil based cooking ingredients to meet the current needs of the Nigerian consumer.
He said the refinery is capable of processing 1,000 tonnes per day and said that it incorporates world class, high efficiency technology, combining the best expertise from PZ Cussons and Wilmar International in manufacturing and palm oil production
He pointed out that this gap is currently filled by imported finished products smuggled into the country. “We are working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cross Rivers State, to implement a Palm outgrowers scheme, which will be promoted under the Cross River Agriculture and Rural Empowerment Scheme (CARES),” he said.
He noted that the aim is to develop a symbiotic arrangement between small scale farmers and PZ Wilmar for the purpose of self-support and to enhance local capacity through the transfer of world class technical skills to local farmers.
He said the initiative would ensure that the smallholder farmers have a ready market for their produce.
The PZ Cussons boss said Nigeria’s production is only 1.3 million tonnes and is a net importer of 700,000 tonnes to meet the national shortage, maintaining that opening the competitive space will, in the short and long run be for the benefit of the country, consumers and community.
He recalled that in 2011, PZ Wilmar JV was formed with the vision of helping to bring palm oil home to Nigeria saying that this will contribute significantly to addressing the current national shortage of palm oil, creating new market and income for local industry and communities and thousands of potential job opportunities.
“We have set out to achieve this by investing in new plantations and refining facilities to world class standards and the production of quality, healthy cooking ingredients
“Over 600,000 high yield palm plants have been transplanted with 2.1 million of seedlings at 4 nursery sites across the site within a palm nursery. A training school has been built on site designed to provide education and skills development in plantation management. We also plan to support an out-growers scheme, giving local producers access to the milling facilities which will improve extraction of oil from their fruits, increasing their quality and yield,” he said.