1.1 Background to Study
The region presently known as Nigeria existed as distinct autonomous regions. It was thus recognized as; the western region, eastern region and the northern region respectively. Be that as it may, each regions were rich in natural resources. So that their environmental conditions had substantial impacts on the said regions.1 Notable in this regard is the oil palm belt (Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ondo, Calabar, Edo, etc) whose environment appeared favourable to oil palm production. Available evidence exist to suggest that oil palm trees flourishes when planted in deep, slightly acidic loamy soil with P5.6, under a climate condition of humid tropics with 250 cm rainfall.2 The above best describes the oil palm region.
Historically, Nigeria alongside her west African neighbours used to be the centre of oil palm production, so that in the account of some, west Africa alone exported 157,000 tonnes of palm kernel. Of which 73% came from Nigeria alone.3 By 1966 however, Malaysia and Indonesia did not give up championing the oil trade easily so that it need be mentioned that the Nigeria government embarked on several rehabilitation schemes assume the hither to status quo as the palm oil king.
The oil palm rehabilitation scheme (OPRS) was in fact the major Agricultural scheme for the eastern Nigerian ministry of Agriculture during 1962-1968 development plan5.
Based on previous experience from other items schemes<1928, 1938, 1954- 1961> the government agreed among other things to include fertilizer among other items to double subsidy given to participating farmers6 .The Nigerian government equally applied to the world bank for loan, owing to the capital intensiveness of the implementation of it’s rehabilitation scheme. Final decision as regards the loan proved abortive owing to the political disturbances that spaned the 1960s(The Nigerian civil war).
This study however, gives attention to oil palm production in the Midwest region (a region which covers the old Bendel state). Thus, core focus will be paid to how NIFOR , and how government policy have affected the oil palm production in this area from 1960- 19917 . The said area under review is known for its huge involvement in oil palm production. As earlier hinted, the discovery of crude oil had an adverse effect on oil palm production as many disassociated themselves from agriculture and embraced the new found oil. Be that as it may, the governments establishment of “NIFOR” Nigerian institute for oil palm research was a step to revive the crippled sector8 . it is in this vein that this study seeks to access the affect of government policy on oil palm production, using NIFOR as a case study.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The people of the Midwest region have immensely benefited from their involvement in the production of oil palm, amidst other agricultural products, the exploitation of oil palm tree could serve multiple purposes, thus increasing its relevance in the agrarian world. So that it’s rich and multifarous usage enticed the people of the said region to stick to its production. It needs to be mentioned that the seeming discovery of crude oil had a negative effect on oil palm production as less attention was paid to the later.
It is in the light of the above that this study will be centered on the following questions, what impact does oil palm production have on the economy of the Mid west region ?,how has government policy affected oil palm production in the Midwest region.? What factor has led to the sudden cripling of the oil palm sector? How has government policy on oil palm improved the socio-economic condition of the Midwest?
1.3 Aims and Objective.
The core objective of this study is to critically access the effect of government policy on oil palm production, using (NIFOR) Nigeria Institute For Oil Palm Research as a case study, hence by examining NIFOR and how much change this policies has brought about in the oil palm sector in the Midwest region.This research intends to achieve this by firstly, analyzing, issues regarding the geograpgical location of the said region, and then examine the Nigerian institute for oil palm research and it’s varying effect on the economy.
1.4 Scopes of study
This study will focus on the effect of government policy on oil palm production in the Mid west region from 1960-1991, thus, core attention would be paid to NIFOR as it remains our focus. References shall be made to agricultural policies on oil palm at large where necessary.
1.5 Significance of Study
Before the discovery of Crude oil in Nigeria, Agriculture has been the economic engine of the nation. With the crash in the Nigerian economy owing to her monocultural economic practice (dependency on crude oil) this study will however, aid researchers to appreciate the vitality of oil palm production.
The significance of this study cannot be undermined as it seeks to contribute to the body of knowledge on the corollary of government policies on oil palm production.
The findings of this research would provide a useful lens through which the economic dynamics of the Nigerian economy can be examined. This is as a result of the fact that this research would be based on the ongoing challenges being faced by the Nigerian economy hence by examining the effects of government policies on oil palm production, so that this research will also serve as an eye-opener on how oil palm production is gradually divorced owing to the total embrace of crude oil.
1.6 Limitation of Study
The researcher encountered several difficulties and constraints in the course of this study. Lack of finance impeded the collection of abundant information as money served as an appetizer to interviewed persons. Time equally posed a serious challenge as it cropped my ability to source for more materials.
This study will employ the descriptive and analytical method. It will solely depend on primary sources such as, oral interviews and secondary sources such as; Journals, online articles, textbooks etc.
1.8 Review of Related Literature
Over time, a good number of books, journals, as well as online articles has contributed to the body of knowledge as regards to the role of government policies on oil palm production. However, this study seeks to fill the vacuums which past literatures have left uncovered.
S.I. Orewa in his article, investigated farmers reasons for intercropping their oil palm farm with food and other cash crops rather than full-time oil palm farm. To him;
Land has remained a chief factor of production in which everyone craves to possess one .Oil palm farm on the other hand requires abundant land thus, compelling farmers to engage in subsistence farming9.
From the above, one would decipher that his article was solely based on teasing out the reasons for the partial involvement of farmers in full-time oil palm production. little attention was thus paid to the effect of government policies on oil palm production.
Akpan in “oil women of Akwa-Ibom States”, examined the crude means of oil palm exploitation. He further highlighted the significance of the palm tree. He posited that the palm tree contributed to rural livelihood as a variety of useful materials are obtainable from its plantation10. Caution must be sounded however, that the aforementioned writer placed much emphasis on the manifold utility of the palm tree, thus leaving the role of government policies on the said agrarian practice in the dark.
B.A. Ndon in his book; “The oil palm: Reflections on the natural habitat of the oil palm”, enunciated the environmental conditions favorable to the growth of palm fruit. He further argued that the oil palm was long domesticated by various west African dwellers far before European encroachment,11 Much attention was paid to the history as well as geographical factors necessary for the growth of the palm fruit. Thus, he ceased to shed light on the significance of the oil palm.
Formidable writers of African descent such as Njoku, postulated that among others, the palm tree (fruit) was one of the most vital crop to the indigenous people. He further asserted that the said plantation gained economic momentum internationally, following the high foreign demand that thrived during the first half of the 20th century12.
As put forward by Ekudare, “The profit yielding potential of oil palm to the Colonial authority is coterminous to crude oil in the world today”13. A bulk of his analysis were based on the profitability of the oil palm to the outside world (west). Its local significance was undermined. In addendum to the foregoing, G.T. Basden examined the methods of exploitation of the said fruit. He gave a detailed description of exploiting the palm tree via “climbing ropes”. He further posited that the tools required for the exploitation of the palm fruit are obtainable from the tree i.e. ropes, baskets etc.14
Like Akan, Anna over emphasized the manifold utility of the oil palm tree. To her, two distinct oil can be extracted from the palm fruit; palm kernel oil from the seed and palm oil from the fibrous pulp which surrounds the seed15. The foregoing notwithstanding, gave no attention to the implications of government policies on the production of oil palm. In contributing to the subject matter, Asenota expressed the economic relevance of oil palm production. He had this to say “the oil palm sector created huge employment opportunities as residents of the south, east, south-south and some western states were solely dependent on the crop”.16 Pertinent to note in this regard is the author’s failure to identify the factors that thwarted the hitherto massive production of oil palm.
Notable in this regards is the account of J.O. Alaka who in his article, The palm oil problems in Nigeria; problems and prospects”, highlighted the problems that brought about a substantial decrease in its production. He equally examined the efforts taken by individual farmers to rehabilitate and ameliorate the dwindling rate of oil palm procution17. Suffice it to note however that the role of government in revamping the said sector was undermined. The cause of the copious rate of oil palm production cannot be examined from a monocausal perspective, so that Mathew attempts to explain the oil palm crash by considering mono-economic forces. He therefore suggested that the over dependence of Nigeria’s economy on crude oil did not favor the agrarian sector thus bringing about a considerable decrease in the production level of farm products at large18.
In addressing the economic dilemma of Nigeria, Alabi asserted that “oil palm production among others was quite lucrative. Its neglect has placed Nigeria in the economic doldrums”19.
It is in the light of the foregoing that it becomes axiomatic to say that several writers have carried out a fastidious examination of palm oil production in Nigeria, however, the above reviewed literatures has shown some obvious vacuums which this study seeks to fill.
This chapter comprises a comprehensive background of oil palm production in Nigeria as well as some rehabilitation schemes as to addressing the issues facing oil palm production in Nigeria; it also includes the problems which this research work is to address as well as the objectives, and significance of this study. The methodology, scope and limitations of this study was stated with a review of some related literature.