Palm oil imports from Malaysia rises 505% in Q1 despite local production push

Nigeria’s Crude Palm Oil (CPO) imports from Malaysia – top global producer – have risen by 505 percent in the first quarter of 2023 despite local production push by the federal government, data from Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) shows.

The country’s CPO import from Malaysia increased to 63,788 metric tons (MT) in the first three months, January to March from 10, 536MT in the same period in 2022, up by 53, 252 MT on a year-on-year basis, the data states.

In 2022, the country imported 227,035 MT of crude palm oil from Malaysia.

To boost local crude palm oil production, the federal government listed crude palm oil on the 41 items restricted from forex access.

Similarly, to protect the country’s palm oil industry and spur the industry growth, the Nigerian government had imported a 35 percent tariff (10 percent duty and 25 percent levy) on palm oil imports into the country.

Despite this, oil palm imports into the country are still on the rise owing to the huge demand-supply gap.

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Nigeria’s palm oil output is estimated at 900,000-1.3 million MT, experts say. Import is estimated at over N500 billion annually. With national demand of 2.1 million MT, the supply gap is around 800,000MT.

Experts stated that palm oil imports have continued to rise because Nigeria’s CPO has remained less competitive than the imported ones owing to high production costs among others.

According to them, this makes local manufacturers who use CPO as raw material for production result in importing rather than patronising local producers.

“Since the inclusion of CPO in the country’s import prohibition list, Nigeria has significantly increased its production in the last 10 years,” Fatai Afolabi, executive secretary of the Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria, said in a statement last year.

“But Nigeria is still importing a lot of CPO into the country and many are smuggled through the land borders,” Afolabi said.

Foods like noodles, vegetable oil, biscuits, chips, margarines, shortenings, cereals, baked stuff, washing detergents, and even cosmetics are made from palm oil.

Since losing its position as one of the world’s largest palm oil producers, Nigeria is yet to recover and take its proper place in the comity of crude palm oil-producing nations owing to the discovery of oil, which changed the country’s palm oil narrative of the 60’s.

As a result, Indonesia and Malaysia have now surpassed Nigeria’s production becoming the global leaders in oil palm production.