Business News of 2014-02-26

Yara Ghana lends support to oil palm sustainability

Yara Ghana Limited, a leading mineral fertilizer company in Ghana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), has embarked on an oil palm training programme for farmers.

The training programme covered four districts in the Western Region namely Mpohor, Wassa West, Wassa East and Agona Nkwanta.

The main objective of the program is to promote the sustainability of oil palm production in Ghana through yeild improvement techniques and introduction of technology as well as proper crop nutrition strategies.

Yara Ghana also used the platform to launch its YaraMila Palmae, a fertilizer for oil palm cultivation.

Mr Henry Otoo, Market Development Manager of Yara Ghana, noted that "oil palm is fast becoming an indispensable crop which is catching up on the global scene. it is therefore important to strategically position the players of the industry especially farmers to enable them rightfully benefit from the imminent growth of the sector."

Farmers who benefitted from the programme as well as MoFA staff expressed appreciation to Yara Ghana for the novel training they received.

An oil palm farmer, P.A. Boateng who has farms in the Ekumfi District of the Central Region said the "training has been very helpful to us farmers and I hope Yara will organise these trainings often."

Yara Ghana has already trained oil palm farmers in the Eastern and Central regions.

According to Mr Otoo, since 1984 the price of cocoa has been falling consistently by some 1.2 per cent yearly whereas that of oil palm has been increasing by 3.2 percent.

He added that oil palm is the most effective crop employed in most developing countries to get their citizens out of poverty. The product is also used in land reclamation programs.

According to experts, although palm oil will likely be expensive for use as a bio diesel, food demand due to chronic shortages of supply faced by most countries of the world will likely force price of the commodity to increase in few a years.

Ghana has been growing oil palm since the 18th century, however, lower yields and the lack of technology to improve upon production continue to hamper the fortunes of the industry.

Recently, it was revealed new varieties of oil palm are capable of increasing the yield by three times more.

If further research to stabilise this yield potential is undertaken through international collaboration, palm oil can be a sound candidate to help solve not only future food shortages but also the bio fuel need of the world.

Ghana has a total of 387,000ha of oil palm under cultivation which forms just 7% of the total production within the West African sub region. The average yield per hectare of oil palm is between 3-7Mt/ha compared to that of 20-33 Mt/ha in Malaysia, where only 26% of production takes place. Ghana currently has an unmet demand of 35,000 tons of palm oil. The estimated unmet demand in the ECOWAS sub-region alone is 850,000 tons (SRID, 2010).

The yield per hectare in Ghana is quite low compared to other oil palm producing countries(see table below) but the potential to increase yield is there, the challenge has been due mainly to the underutilization of fertilizer in the oil palm sector especially among the small holder farmers who incidentally are also utilised as out growers for the corporate farms. Indeed a bulk of the oil palm cultivation(80%) is done by small holders in Ghana.