The failure of African countries to produce oil palm to meet growing demand has resulted in the description of oil palm production in the continent as anaemic.
Although oil palm originated in the tropical rainforest region of West and Central Africa, the region accounts for less than five percent of global output despite consuming close to 10 per cent of total production.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture in charge of Crops, Dr Ahmed Alhassan Yakubu, said at the second Africa Sustainable Palm Oil Conference in Accra that the situation, however, was improving as African countries found ways to produce oil palm sustainably.
“Oil palm production in Sub-Saharan Africa has unfortunately been described as anemic. Africa, however, is rising up to the task and is implementing strategies to strengthen the sector to provide a conducive environment for the development of palm oil,” he Said
He said the ongoing paradigm shift in the palm oil sector towards sustainable palm oil production had become evident in the increasing demand by consumers for assurances that the palm oil they bought were produced through sustainable ways.
These ways, he said included efforts that safeguarded the environment, protected biodiversity and did not infringe on the rights of workers and indigenous/local people.
“Businesses across the globe, in response, have made voluntary time-bound commitments to sustainable production and sourcing 100per cent certified sustainable palm oil.
“The implication is that, non-certified palm oil will eventually be excluded from international palm trade, resulting in loss of much needed export revenue to producer countries, which are not able to comply with the requirements, and consequently, the loss of income to growers and millers if necessary measures are not implemented,” he said.
Dr Yakubu also noted that for Africa to remain competitive within the rapidly changing palm oil market, there was the need for a conscientious effort by all players to main stream sustainability into palm oil production and the supply chain.
That, he said, would include the smaller growers and artisanal millers who were very often overlooked although they contributed as much as 80 percent of total output in some producer countries in the region.
He added, “In Ghana, we recognise that sustainable oil development is important to our economy and our people. The government has, therefore, through my ministry developed and implemented various measures to provide support and guidance to all stakeholders to ensure that the sector is developed sustainably.”
Proforest, a non-profit group, together with Solidaridad and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), organised the second Africa Sustainable Palm Oil Conference and RSPO Open Day in Accra.
The conference brought together oil palm growers, civil society, financial institutions, supply chain actors, development partners, governments and key experts in the oil palm sector within Africa and beyond to discuss how to position businesses on the continent to adopt best practices in sustainability while mainstreaming small producers’ ability to access global supply chains.
The Africa Regional Director for Proforest, Mr Abraham Baffoe, said, “this is a critical time for sustainable palm oil in Africa as the region is likely to become a net exporter of palm oil and as national and international businesses increasingly commit to responsible production and sourcing”.
He added that the conference provided an opportunity for stakeholders to come together to build on those commitments to develop a sustainable palm oil industry which balanced economic growth with environmental and social protection and which also supported smallholder producers to adopt global best practice requirements.