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Despite Being Fifth-Largest Producer, Nigerian Palm Oil Sector Suffers Decline Due To Government’s Neglect, Climate Change

Climate Change

Climate Change

Despite Being Fifth-Largest Producer, Nigerian Palm Oil Sector Suffers Decline Due To Government’s Neglect, Climate Change

The plight of palm oil farmers in Ondo State highlights the impact of climate change on production and the government’s failure to provide essential support.

Nigeria, renowned as the world’s fifth-largest producer of palm oil, continues to grapple with the dual challenges of climate change and government neglect in its vital palm oil sector. Despite the country’s heavy reliance on crude oil, palm oil remains a cornerstone of its economy, contributing significantly to global production.

In an exclusive interview with Afrika Eyes, Reverend Paul Imisi, a seasoned palm oil producer, sheds light on the industry’s struggles and the adverse effects of climate change on palm oil cultivation in Nigeria.

Climate Change’s Toll on Production

Reverend Paul Imisi

Reverend Paul Imisi

Mr. Imisi reported that he commenced palm oil farming and production in 2010 within a riverine area. Despite his efforts, he shared that the Ministry of Agriculture in Ondo State has consistently failed to provide Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) to palm oil farmers. The government has never distributed POPs to the palm oil farmers in the state, despite their ongoing requests.

He explained the impact of climate change on palm oil production, highlighting a significant reduction in yield during the dry season. The harsh conditions result in diminished oil palm productivity, with production being notably low.

However, there is a marked increase in output during specific months, namely July, August, and September, when conditions are more favourable, leading to a surge in production.

“In July, the palm trees would have borne fruit and transitioned into the harvesting stage, commonly referred to as “rap.” During this period, the majority of instances saw a peak in activity, with notable enjoyment of the boom occurring between July, August, and September.”

He noted that climatic actions, such as bush burning, constitute a significant factor influencing palm oil production. Additionally, he noted that gas emissions resulting from oil pollution have widespread effects, particularly in the South-west region.

He emphasized that the primary challenge they face is predominantly linked to drought conditions.
“During the rainy season, while the production of palm oil is high, the favourable conditions for palm growth also contribute to an advanced effect.

IMG 5587ffsd

Palm oil extraction Display

According to him: “If you have a hundred bunches during the oil boom, you might end up with 20 or 30 kegs of red palm oil. However, if it’s raining and the rain comes into contact with the bunches, it can reduce the overall production. We require farming inputs and funding to construct a storage facility for the palm kernel.

He said there is a palm oil association in the state located in Okiti-Pupa called ‘Ope Igi-owo.’ Despite having cooperative and union certificates, the government has never supported palm oil producers.

“At the local government level, they have been aspiring to obtain loans from the government, and at the state level, they have put in considerable effort, but all attempts have been unsuccessful. The government is neglecting the palm oil farmers in the state.

Calls for Government Action

Reverend Imisi urges the government to prioritize the palm oil sector by providing essential resources such as fertilizers, herbicides, and financial support.

He draws attention to the disparity in assistance compared to other agricultural sectors, pointing out that initiatives like Fadama last August, last year, they provided poultry and poultry- feed, pigs, cassava and some other things but they did not provide anything to the palm oil farmers.
He further stated that they require farm inputs similar to those provided to other sectors in agricultural farming.

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Jeremaya Elijah, a prominent figure among palm oil farmers in the Ese-Odo local government of Ondo State, engages not only in palm oil cultivation but also in cocoa and cassava farming. In an interview with Afrika Eyes, he shared insights into his agricultural journey, revealing that he ventured into mixed farming six years ago, commencing with the cultivation of cassava, palm oil, and cocoa.

Jeremaya Elijah

Jeremaya Elijah

Elijah highlighted that cassava, being a quick-yielding crop, takes no more than a year to be harvested. However, he emphasized the strategic decision to incorporate palm oil farming and production as part of his agricultural pursuits, recognizing the additional opportunities it presents along the way.

Mr. Elijah said that the palm oil cultivation process involves a longer timeframe, taking approximately four years from the initial planting to the harvest.

He further explained that substantial mass production occurs post-harvest, underlining the patient and meticulous nature of palm oil farming.

In an interview with an Afrika Eyes correspondent, Mr Elijah narrated his challenges related to climate change. According to him, the primary obstacle he faces is financial constraints.

He attributed the financial strain to the impact of climate change on palm oil production, particularly during November, December, and January.

IMG 5601fdd

“The changing climate conditions during these months significantly affect the overall production process, posing a notable challenge for farmers like him.

Reflecting on the challenges faced by palm oil farmers, Mr. Elijah pointed out that bush burning constitutes a significant obstacle. Drawing from his personal experience in 2022, he recounted an unfortunate incident where all his farmland fell victim to fire, attributing this devastating event to the effects of climate change.

Mr. Elijah urged the Ondo State government to extend support to palm oil farmers, said that their livelihoods hinge on palm oil farming.

He expressed concern, noting that neither the state nor the federal government has provided any assistance to the struggling farmers, highlighting the pressing need for urgent intervention.

“I have a workforce of no fewer than 20 individuals in my factory. If the government extends assistance, we could expand our operations, hire additional staff, and subsequently increase our production capacity. This, in turn, would not only benefit our business but also contribute to generating more revenue for the government.”


“In palm oil farming, every element holds economic value; there is no concept of waste. From the palm bunch to the extraction of red oil and palm kernel, every component is monetarily significant.”

He said their monthly palm oil production ranges from two to three drums. However, this output diminishes to two drums during the winter period due to the impacts of climate change.
Mr. Elijah noted that his farmland is at a considerable distance, near a riverside area. He explained the difficulties they encounter, particularly during the rainy season, when the road becomes impassable for trucks, posing significant challenges to transportation and logistics.

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He described that during the harvest season, they resort to using a boat for transportation instead of completing the journey in one hour as usual. However, due to extensive flooding, the entire area becomes submerged, causing the transportation process to extend to four hours instead.

He, however, called on the government to assist palm oil farmers by providing necessary inputs and accessible loans that would enable them to increase their production.

Adeshayo Nasir Peace

Adeshayo Nasir Peace

One of the palm oil producers in Ondo State has been involved in oil palm production for over 20 years, overseeing the entire process from plantation to various stages. However, he faces challenges in terms of acquiring essential equipment, such as fertilizers and chemicals needed to manage and maintain the farm.

Mr. Peace mentioned the difficulties they face during climate change, especially in the rainy season. The road leading to the farm becomes impassable, and the equipment they use for tapping the palm kernel from the farm becomes inaccessible.

He also explained that during the drying season, their production is usually low compared to the rainy season. Due to climate change, they produce very low quantities of palm oil during this period.

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“The government needs to come to our aid and assist the palm oil farmers. We are the fifth-largest producer of palm oil in the world, but our leaders have failed to recognize palm oil as a significant source of revenue. Instead, their main focus is on crude oil.”

According to him, if the government invests in palm oil farming, the production will increase even amidst climate change, and Nigeria could become the world’s largest producer of palm oil.
Peace explained how his community has faced the challenge of electricity for many years.

“We farmers, especially the palm oil farmers, are suffering seriously here. Since I was born, I have never seen a sign of electricity in our community. We all use generators and solar power to operate our machines during production.”


“We also face the challenge of insecurity. Often, thieves attack our farms during the harvesting period. Sometimes, even when we are not on the farm for inspection or work, they go behind and harvest our products. In many cases, they invade our facility during production and make off with the palm oil.”

He mentioned that the robberies extend from the farm to the factory, and despite reporting the incidents to the Nigerian Police, no arrests have ever been made.

Government Neglect and Financial Struggles

Imisi’s plea for government intervention is echoed by other farmers like Jeremaya Elijah and Adeshayo Nasir Peace. They both highlight the financial constraints exacerbated by climate change, emphasizing the need for assistance in combating challenges such as bush burning and inaccessible farmlands.

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They also emphasize the lack of government support during critical months and the community’s broader challenges, including electricity shortages and rampant thefts.

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The palm oil farmers urge the government to prioritize the palm oil sector by providing essential resources such as fertilizers, herbicides, and financial support. They also draw attention to the disparity in assistance compared to other agricultural sectors, pointing out that initiatives like Fadama have excluded palm oil farmers.

They emphasized that with government intervention, employment opportunities could increase and production, Nigeria could become the world’s leading palm oil producer.

Government Intervention with Ecology Funds

Farm And agriculture expert, Kareem Jeleel Adebowale, speaks on the effects of climate change on oil palm production in Nigeria.

He said, “Climate change is occurring due to both natural factors and human activities,” and emphasized that the red oil industry faces challenges that demand immediate attention.

Bio-diverse ecosystems and biodiversity play a critical role in the survival of the world’s food supply. Red oil palm cultivation, however, is under siege from erratic rainfall, prolonged droughts, and rising temperatures.

He urged the Nigerian government to allocate more ecology funds, prioritize research on climate-resilient practices, and support palm oil farmers, enabling them to implement climate-smart agricultural practices.

“The Nigerian government must allocate ecology funds strategically. These funds should support research on climate-resilient agricultural practices, the development of sustainable infrastructure, and the implementation of eco-friendly technologies.

“Palm oil farmers need to be empowered with knowledge and skills to navigate the challenges posed by climate change. Both state and federal governments should provide financial incentives for them to adopt environmentally friendly farming methods.”

He added that the government should establish regulatory monitoring systems to assess challenges and formulate strategies during climate change.

He said Nigeria can navigate the challenges posed by climate change and secure the future of red oil production.

Palm oil production worldwide

By Statista

By Statista

According to Statista, the production of palm oil in Nigeria reached 1.4 million metric tons in 2023. Over the period from 2009 to 2023, there was a consistent upward trend in production, with the most significant growth occurring in 2010, resulting in an approximate 14 percent increase.

Subsequently, from 2014 onward, the output from palm oil production in Nigeria continued to exhibit a rising trajectory. Notably, Nigeria stands among the top global producers of palm oil.

By Statista

By Statista

The leading palm oil export markets for Malaysia are India, the European Union, and China. Almost two-thirds of Malaysia’s palm oil exports go to these three markets. Colombia, which ranks fourth in total palm oil production worldwide, produces nearly twice as much as any other Latin American palm oil-producing country.

In Nigeria, the production of palm oil has continuously increased during the last decade. The world’s leading palm oil production company, based on market capitalization, is Wilmar International Limited.

The Ondo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Olayato Aribo, did not respond to calls or text messages from Afrika Eyes correspondent regarding the plight of palm oil farmers at the time this report was filed.

Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed, a seasoned investigative journalist and climate/environmental reporter with a decade of experience, unravels complex issues and amplifies critical voices. His in-depth investigative work and insightful reporting have earned him recognition as a trusted source of information. Ahmed's unwavering commitment to journalism and exceptional storytelling prowess make him a standout figure in investigative journalism. His work drives meaningful conversations, influences policy decisions, and inspires collective efforts toward a sustainable future.

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