The Decline of Nigeria’s Palm Oil Industry

The Decline of Nigeria’s Palm Oil Industry

In the 1960s, Nigeria was the leading producer of palm oil in the world, controlling over 28% of the global market. However, today, the country has gone from being a major exporter to importing crude palm oil. As you travel through the southern region of Nigeria, you’ll come across vast mangrove and palm plantation estates that once thrived with palm oil production. Large plantations like Atar Farms in Imo State and Upper Farms in Akwa Ibom State used to supply a significant amount of palm oil for exports in the 60s and 70s.

The Traditional Process of Palm Oil Production


A visit to a local community in Nigeria sheds light on the traditional method of processing palm oil. The process involves cutting out palm fruit, boiling it, grinding it, and then pressing it to extract the oil. Despite the manual labor involved, the oil is eventually ready for packaging and sale. However, due to the traditional extraction methods, only about 50% of the oil is efficiently extracted.


The Challenges and Opportunities in Palm Oil Production


Smallholder farmers, particularly women, play a significant role in palm oil production in Nigeria. While the process remains labor-intensive, efforts have been made to introduce small processing machines to improve efficiency. However, the adoption rate of such technology has been low, posing challenges for the industry’s sustainability. Despite the challenges, palm oil production remains a lucrative business and a vital income source for many families.


The Health Benefits of Palm Oil


There is a debate on the health benefits of palm oil, with some misconceptions arising from the confusion between palm oil and palm kernel oil. While palm kernel oil is often over-processed and used in various food products, red palm oil, derived from palm fruit, is a nutritious oil suitable for cooking. Understanding the distinction is crucial for promoting the consumption of the right type of oil for health benefits.




Exploring the world of palm oil production in Nigeria reveals both the challenges and opportunities present in the industry. Despite the decline in Nigeria’s palm oil export market, traditional methods of production persist, providing livelihoods for many. By addressing challenges such as low adoption of modern technology and misconceptions about palm oil, the industry can strive for sustainability and continued growth.


Watching the process of palm oil production in Nigeria offers a glimpse into the lives and practices of communities, showcasing the importance of preserving traditional knowledge while embracing innovation for a more sustainable future.

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