Experts are attending a two-day Africa Sustainable Palm Oil Conference in Accra, to discuss how to position businesses on the continent to adopt best practices in sustainability.
Organised jointly by Proforest, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Solidaridad, the meeting is also seeking ways to mainstream small producers’ ability to access global supply chains.
Speaking at the opening session, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, said Africa is producing less than it consumes and increasing investment in the sector would help provide jobs, improve local economies and reduce rural poverty.
Currently, Africa produces about five per cent of global output of palm oil but consumes at least 10 per cent.
Dr Alhassan said closing the gaps in the sector and producing oil palm sustainably would require concerted efforts from governments, regional bodies, research institutions, private financiers, investors, and technocrats, to ensure the proper understanding and utilization of oil palm.
He said small growers and artisanal millers, who contribute about 80 per cent of Africa’s total annual output, must be repositioned to play their roles in a more sustainable manner so as not to be outplayed in the market.
According to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil smallholders account for 70– 90 per cent of oil palm producers in Africa.
Dr Alhassan said it is important that palm oil refiners, manufacturers and other actors who influence the sector directly and indirectly come together to find ways of reducing the likely negative impacts and increase its benefits.
Meanwhile, Dr Alhassan said Cabinet has given approval for the setting up of the Oil Palm Development Board and that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Attorney General would soon work on the modalities as well as legal instruments to ensure the operations of the board.
Mr Abraham Baffoe, Africa Regional Director Proforest, said the workshop sought to build a shared understanding of TFA 2020 and to translate commitments into actions.
The TFA 2020 is a public–private partnership bringing together companies, governments and civil society with a shared goal of reducing tropical deforestation across the globe.
Its focus is on agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, pulp and paper, and beef products, which drive more than 50 per cent of such deforestation.
Leading palm oil producing countries in Africa, including Ghana, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Liberia and Nigeria are engaged in the Initiative.
Experts said investment in the palm oil sector in Africa is growing with the potential to provide jobs, improving local economies and reducing rural poverty.
Future growth in the sector is expected to help close the palm oil deficit and position the region to be a net exporter of palm oil.
Oil Palm is known to have originated in Africa. Its cultivation has hitherto been on a small scale – primarily as village low-yield multi-crop stands. GNA