PZ Wilmar has invested approximately $150m in palm oil plantations in Cross River State alone, according to Businessday report. Santosh Pillai, managing director of PZ Wilmar, in an interview, reiterated the commitment of his firm to the development of palm oil industry in Nigeria.
Pillai said apart from plantations, the investment was also made in associated infrastructures in the state.
“We are determined to continue with these investments and looking for opportunities to expand our plantations in the state. We have also invested around N20 billion in an oil palm refinery in Lagos,” he disclosed.
PZ Wilmar, a subsidiary of PZ Cussons, has almost 26,500 hectares of palm oil plantations in Cross River State. About 5,549 hectares (ha) of oil palm plantation are located in Calaro Estate, while 2,369 ha are in an area known as Calaro Extension.
The firm also acquired Ibiae plantations with 5,595 ha; Ibad plantations in Akampa with 7,805 ha; Kwa Falls in Akampa Akpabuyo with 2,014 ha, and Oban plantations, also in Akampa, with 2,986 ha.
PZ Cussons has completed two palm oil processing plants in the Calaro Estate.
One is a 45 ton per hour palm oil mill (POM) and the other is a 2.5 ton per hour kernel crushing plant (KCP).
The POM basically converts fresh fruit bunches (FFB) into palm oil. This process involves extracting red palm oil from the fleshy outer mesocarp of the palm fruit. The KCP, on the other hand, extracts palm kernel oil (PKO) from the palm kernels.
The company also has another processing plant at Ibad Oil Palm Estate in Cross River, with a capacity of 20 tons per hour in terms of FFB processing.
Nigeria produces 900,000 to 1.2 million metric tonnes of palm oil, but demand is estimated at 2.1 million tonnes.
“Nigeria has all that is required to be self-sufficient in palm oil production. Indeed, the country should be among the top global producers of the commodity. We have good agro-climatic conditions, manpower is readily available, and we have land and the market,” he said.
“Most importantly, the oil palm originated here. Nigeria has a competitive advantage in producing oil palm,” he added.
To address the current and future demand, Pillai said certain steps must be taken.
“Nigeria will need to plant at least 300,000 hectares in the near future, which is an investment of over N700 billion and it will take us several years. It is a crop which has a long gestation period and takes three to four years to yield fruits and seven to eight years to achieve maturity.
“The industry requires massive investments and the government has to come with policies which will support development of the oil palm industry in a holistic manner,” he explained.
He pointed out that the country must ensure that any future development of plantations is done in a sustainable manner to ensure that there are limited adverse environmental and social impacts.
“As members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), we strive to develop our plantations in line with international best practices. Stakeholders in Nigeria should demand that all new developments in the country are done in line with the requirements of RSPO.
This way, we will be safeguarding the future of our environment while at the same time empowering local communities to actively engage in the business and take advantage of the opportunities made available by the presence of the big industry players,” he stated.