Yara Ghana Limited, a leading mineral fertiliser company in the country, in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) has embarked on an oil palm training programme for farmers.
The training programme covered four districts in the Western Region: namely Mpohor, Wassa West, Wassa East and Agona Nkwanta.
The main objective of the programme is to promote the sustainability of oil palm production in the country through yield improvement techniques and introduction of technology, as well as proper crop nutrition strategies.
Yara Ghana also used the platform to launch its Yara Mila Palmae, a fertiliser for oil palm cultivation.
Mr. Henry Otoo, Market Development Manager of Yara Ghana, said: “Oil palm is fast becoming an indispensable crop that is catching up on the global markets, and it is, therefore, important to strategically position players of the industry, especially farmers, to enable them to rightfully benefit from the imminent growth of the sector”.
Farmers who benefitted from the programme as well as MoFA staff expressed appreciation to Yara Ghana for the novel training they received.
An oil palm farmer, P.A. Boateng who has farms in the Ekumfi District of the Central Region, said the “training has been very helpful to us farmers, and I hope Yara will organise these trainings programmes often”.
Yara Ghana has already trained oil palm farmers in the Eastern and Central Regions.
According to Mr. Otoo, since 1984 the price of cocoa has been falling consistently by some 1.2 per yearly, whereas that of oil palm has been increasing by 3.2 percent.
He added that oil palm is the most effective crop employed in most developing countries to get their citizens out of poverty. The product is also used in land reclamation programmes.
According to experts, although palm oil will likely be expensive for use as a bio-diesel, food demand due to chronic shortages of supply faced by most countries of the world will likely force the price of the commodity to increase in few years.
Ghana has been growing oil palm since the 18th century; however, lower yields and lack of technology to improve upon production continue to hamper fortunes of the industry.
Recently, it was revealed that new varieties of oil palm are capable of increasing the yield by three times more.
If further research to stabilise this yield potential is undertaken through international collaboration, palm oil can be a sound candidate to help solve not only future food shortages but also the bio-fuel need of the world.
Ghana has a total of 387,000 hectares of oil palm under cultivation, which forms just 7% of the total production within the West African sub-region.
The average yield per hectare of oil palm is between 3-7 metric tonnes per hectare (Mt/ha) compared to that of 20-33 Mt/ha in Malaysia, where only 26% of production takes place.
Ghana currently has an unmet demand of 35,000 tonnes of palm oil. The estimated unmet demand in the ECOWAS sub-region alone is 850,000 tonnes.
The yield per hectare in the country is quite low compared to other oil palm producing countries,but the potential to increase yield is there; the challenge has been due mainly to the under utilisation of fertiliser in the oil palm sector, especially among the smallholder farmers — who incidentally are also utilised as out-growers for the corporate farms. Indeed, the bulk of oil palm cultivation (80%) is done by smallholders in Ghana.