Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a tree that has both social and economic value. It is a perennial crop that originated from the humid lowland tropics or the tropical Rain forest of West Africa. It has spread to other continents of the world like Asia, South America, etc. It is the most predominate vegetable oil consumed in the form of Palm oil (gotten from the mesocarp) and Kernel Oil (gotten from the seed).Palm oil Production starts with the cultivation of the oil palm seedlings.
Palm oil is a lucrative agribusiness which has played vital roles in income generation, employment creation and improvement of standard of living. The domestic consumption of palm oil has skyrocketed beyond its production. There is a huge market demand for palm produce.
There is a high global demand for palm oil thereby calling for increase in production. Palm oil has both edible and non-edible applications.
We have identified 4 business prospects in Oil Palm Agribusiness, they are-
- Oil Palm Cultivation: This has to do with setting up an oil palm plantation. This is a lucrative business with large market outlet for the sale of the Fresh Fruits Bunches that you will harvest from the Plantation. You can sell to agro-industrial mills, soap production companies and other milling factories. Also, you can also extract palm wine from the sap of the oil palm trees, this another Agribusiness opportunity.
- Palm Oil Processing: Is the process of extraction the oil from the palm fruits using manual, mechanical or chemical methods. This is another business prospect in palm oil agribusiness.Palm Oil Processing is a major means of income generation and employment .There is a huge market for Palm Oil both locally and internationally.
- Palm Kernel Oil Processing: Palm Kernel is one of the products gotten from Palm oil processing. The oil palm when processed yields palm oil, fiber, and palm nut. When you crack the nut, you will obtain palm kernel and the shell. Palm Kernel has high economic importance. Its high economic importance is as a result of its bye-products which are Palm kernel oil (P.K.O) and Palm Kernel Cake (P.K.C). Soap and Detergent Industries, Cosmetic Industries, Food Industry and Animal Feed Industry are in need of Palm Kernel products in large quantity.
- Wholesaling and Retailing of Palm Oil: This is is one of the commonest oil Palm business. Here you can buy and store Palm Oil in bulk during the peak season and wait for the low season in order to retail it when the price is high.
3 MAIN VARIETIES OF OIL PALM AND THEIR CHARACTERISTICS:
We have 3 main varieties or species of oil Palm, they are:
- Dura Variety: Is the natural occurring species or variety of Oil Palm. The Palm is very tall about 12m to 15m in height. The fruit consists of a thin or low mesocarp, thick endocarp (shell) with large kernels (high kernel content). Because of its height the bunches are harvested by climbing the Palms.
- The Pisifera Variety: This Is a naturally occurring species that possess thick mesocarp (with little oil content) no endocarp (shell-less) with small kernel. They female flower is sterile. There is a delay fruiting and takes up to 10 to 12 years. It is difficult to germinate the seeds. Its shell-less features discourage its processing into Palm Oil and Palm Kernel.
- Tenera Variety: is a crossed Dura and Pisifera hybrid and is the universal species used in palm oil cultivation. The mesocarp and kernel content are relatively large. It is best used for commercial oil Palm Cultivation. Tenera hybrid have high resistance ability to fusarium wilt and drought attack. It can withstand long dry season.
Dura and Tenera varieties are the major Oil Palm fruits that have high commercial importance . Two major edible oils are extracted from the mesocarp and kernels of Dura and Tenera Varieties. They are Palm oil and Palm kernel oil.
How to Set up Palm Oil Tree Plantation:
Palm Oil Tree Plantation involves the process of cultivating, nurturing and harvesting of Palm Oil fruits. The setting of the Palm Oil Plantation undergoes a lot of stages and involves some factors. The factors are-
Choose a suitable Site: Thee land for planting of oil palm seedlings should be level, well drained , fertile and deep. Oil palm adapts flourishes well in loamy to clay soil. Soil fertility, Typography and availability of water are essential its growth. It requires the application of fertilizer for the growth of the young seedlings.
The Climatic Conditions needed for Palm Oil tree Plantation are-
- It requires 1600mm to 500mm per year to enhance the growth Oil Palm.
- The temperature requirement is between the range of 18 degree Celsius and 34 degree Celsius.
- It requires plenty of Sunshine.
- It thrives under condition of high relative density.
- Its yields performance are adversely affected during dry harmattan season.
- It requires a range of soil with Neutral pH.
- Planting: Oil palm is propagated using seed. Tenera Variety is the best species with high yield. You can purchase this hybrid seed from any of the Agriculture Research Institutes .For instance, you can buy the seeds from NIRO.
Germination: Oil Palm seeds require 90-100 days to germinate. The seeds are exposed to the heat of the sun in open sand beds or you can apply artificial heating in the form of fermenting vegetable matter or a wood fire. After the heat treatment exposure, the seeds are cooled to room temperature at optimum humidity.
Nursery: The Germinated seeds are planted into single stage polythene bags Nursery. This involves the use of 400 to 500 polythene bag measuring 40cm wide x 35cm deep which are filled with top soil. The germinated seeds are thickly mulched using shredded partially decomposed oil palm bunch or plantain leaves. Each of the polythene bags is perforated at the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. Watering your nursery is a must.
When the seedlings are 3 months old a solid mixture of NPK Mg Fertilizer in the ratio of 1:1:1 :1 using Sulphate of Ammonia, Muriate of Sulphate is applied.Dithane-M45 is used to spray against disease attack every 2 weeks.
Land Preparation: The land is cleared for easy access into the field. This involves felling of trees,cutting into logs and removing them . Loosening the soil using Tractor Soil Pulverizers. The field is lined and planting points pegged. A triangular spacing 9m x 9m x9m will give you a population of about 142Palms. Planting holes 45cm x 45cm are dug at the pegged points. The Nursery Period is 24 months.
Transplanting: Seedlings raised in polybags are transplanted after stripping the polythene bags. During transplanting, the roots are evenly distributed in the four arms of the cross shaped holes. First, fill the hole with the top soil, and with the bottom soil to firm the soil around the base of the young seedlings. Transplanting is best done from March till June which marks the beginning of the early rain. Palm Seedlings should not be transplanted too deep to avoid retarded growth.
Weeding: The major weeds in Oil palm plantation are Siam Weed and Narrow Leaf weed. Siam weed grows rapidly and dominates the plantation especially during the raining season and causes continuous fire hazards in the dry season. These two weeds should be removed using cutlass or herbicides. Your first weeding should be done after 3 months. The second weeding after another 3 months towards ending of raining season.
Fruiting: Oil palm starts bearing fruits from the age of 4 years and reaches its peak yield age at the end of 17 years.
Harvesting: When the Oil Palm fruit ripens, you know is time to harvest the Fresh Fruit Bunches. The harvesters climb the oil palm using ladders or ropes and the ripe bunches are harvested using sharp cutlass or an axe. In modern plantation, the short palms can be harvested using a chisel mounted on a short wooden pole.
Yield: Oil palm may produce up to 12 bunches per year. It varies from one yield to another.Tenera Hybrid has the potential of producing 15 metric tons of fresh fruit bunches per hectare per year under good plantation practice.
Photo Credit: Chinagoabroad.