The Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan has disclosed that cabinet has approved the creation of an Oil Palm Development Board to regulate and promote the sector.

The creation of the board has become necessary as government bid to position the country to realise the needed investment and growth and development of the oil palm value chain.

“The high point is for government to collapse more into a regulator. That is why as recently as last week, cabinet approved the creation of an Oil Palm Development Board to regulate the sector and bring all stakeholders together so that all issues pertaining to the sector can be addressed,” Dr. Alhassan said.

Dr. Alhassan said this at the Africa Sustainable Palm Oil Conference in Accra, organised by Proforest, together with Solidaridad and Roundtable on Sustainable Oil.

Apart from the development board, he said there is also in place a 10 year oil palm development plan, which will help to encourage effective collaborations with the private sector.

“Another basic objective is to increase the volume of refined oil in the country. Currently, we are a net exporter of crude palm oil but we import most of the refined palm oil we consume, which is not the best because the process of refining create jobs. So the next focus in the coming years is to collaborate with the private sector players to increase refineries in the country,” he added.

The minister said the oil palm sector holds lots of potential and that government is committed to doing its best to ensure there is sustainable development in the sector adding: “I will urge investors to invest in this potential so that our job creation and foreign exchange earnings can be achieved.”

According to him, the sector was once a high foreign exchange earner before cocoa came to replace it, hence the need to revamp it.

The event, which was attended by participants from across the globe was aimed at bringing stakeholders together to discuss how to position businesses on the continent to adopt best practices in sustainability whilst mainstreaming small producers’ability to access global supply chains.

Nana Darko Cobbina, Director of Africa Regional Programmes –Proforest called on industry players to undertake best practices in farming activities in order not to hurt the environment.

“The focus is now on West and Central Africa which are seen as the frontiers of expansion. There is going to be a lot of attention. So we need to go about it in a very responsible way in terms of developing oil palm plantation because we know that oil palm is an important element of our local development strategy. However,its production could lead to negative social and environmental impact,” Mr. Cobbina said.

The African Sustainable Palm Oil Conference, was also to enable stakeholders to put in place measures to avoid any negative implication resulting from the cultivation of oil palm.

Currently, palm oil production in the country is hindered by deforestation and illegal sourcing of produces.This, Mr. Cobbina said needs coordinated response and approach to arrest.

“There are a lot of challenges facing the sector. Two of the very important challenges are deforestation and illegal sourcing of oil palm,” he added.