The Akwa Ibom State Government says it has begun the distribution of thousands of coconut seedlings to schools and organisations in the state, in its latest effort to have the state’s novel coconut refinery start operations.
The state’s commissioner for agriculture, Glory Edet, said this on Friday in Uyo.
Ms Edet said the government was ready to support different organisations as part of efforts to increase the production level of coconut in the state.
“The ministry of agriculture is poised to encourage individuals, organisations, institutions and corporate bodies to contribute to the collaborative effort of massive production of coconuts and its value chains towards production lines of the coconut oil factory in the state,” the commissioner said.
The state flagged off its coconut oil refinery in 2017, but the project, which is near completion, was delayed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commissioner of information, Charles Udo, said in June.
The factory, believed to be the only one in the country, is located at Mkpat Enin local government of the state, and is said to have a projected capacity of processing about one million coconuts a day, but will commence with a capacity of 300,000 coconuts daily.
The government has an 11,000-hectare coconut plantation lying across three local government areas, and holding two million coconuts stands to feed the refinery.
Besides its wide applications in food processing and pharmaceuticals, coconut oil is used as raw material for the production of soap and as a medium in the paint and varnish industries. It is also used in the manufacture of detergents, surfactants, emulsifiers and pesticides.
Coconut oil sells higher than crude oil when measured in barrels, and provides immense economic opportunities for investors, experts say.
On September 2, during this year’s World Coconut Day celebration in Abuja, the president of the National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN), Nma Okoroji, said coconut can help Nigeria generate about $400 billion annually, which can significantly boost the country’s GDP.
“Our economy of production has proven that the coconut sub-sector can contribute over $400 billion to Nigerian economy annually,” she said.
“How much is the cost of crude as compared to that of coconut? It is three times higher and the demand for coconut products is increasing every day,” Ms Okoroji said.
She acknowledged that the production level of coconut in the country is low, and urged Nigerians to invest in coconut production.
“We don’t have enough coconuts in Nigeria presently; 80 percent of the coconuts that are used in this country are imported and the cost of importation is getting higher and higher every day,” she said.
“Investing into coconut production will really help the country’s economy; for instance, one hectare of coconut plantation takes 200 trees and these trees with this present variety we are promoting in NACOPPMAN you are getting nothing less than 100 nuts from each tree after three years.”
Ms Edet, appealed to principals and teachers to promote agricultural practices in schools amongst the students to ensure food security in the state.
Ms Edet who said the distribution of the coconut seedlings and other farm inputs to public schools are in phases which will go round to all schools in the state, said that adequate supervision will be made by the government to ensure the cultivation of coconuts and other farm inputs by schools which will attract rewards to outstanding schools.
John Markson, the permanent secretary, Akwa Ibom State ministry of agriculture, added that the planting exercise is to beef up the production level of coconuts in the state to meet the needed quantity.