Mr Gabriel Opoku-Asare, the Head of Corporate Affairs, Unilever Ghana, has described the palm oil sub-sector as the next “gold” for the country if it can meet the increasing global demand for sustainable palm oil.
He said the palm oil sector currently employs over 300,000 people in the country and this must be given the needed attention to exploit its full potential.
Mr Opoku-Asare said this during the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 Palm Oil Initiative Ghana Country Workshop, held in Accra.
The workshop, organised by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 Africa Palm Oil, was to identify the challenges that affects sustainable oil palm production, whiles developing practical principles to help guide sustainable production and expansion of oil palm in the country.
He said the oil palm sub sector could easily be developed into a key foreign exchange earner and job creator to improve the livelihoods of millions of Ghanaians.
“Even though Ghana is one of the leading palm oil producing countries, the second in Africa and eight in the world, the country was still a net importer of Palm Oil. “Ghana’s current deficit of 50,000 tonnes in supply could hit over 100,000 tonnes in the near future, this trend can be reversed and Ghana can become a net exporter of palm oil”, he said.
“Currently, most of the global consumer goods companies like Unilever source their palm oil as a raw material for their products from South East Asia and as their businesses in Africa have expanded, they import part of their palm oil from outside Africa to supplement local supply, ” he said.
He said this did not make sense as palm oil was a crop indigenous to West Africa, but Ghana would only be able to access the large and growing market for sustainably produced palm oil if it commits to sustainable production.
He said Uniliver, as one of the world’s largest buyer of palm oil for use in products such as margarine, ice cream, soap and shampoo and buys nearly 3 per cent of global supply.
He said in 2004, Unilever became a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and four years later, it has committed to source all its palm oil sustainably by 2015.
The Corporate Affairs Manager said Unilever’s sustainable palm oil sourcing policy commits to halting deforestation in its supply chain, protecting peat lands and ensuring a positive social and economic impact for local communities.
“Unilever believes that a profitable and sustainable palm oil sector must find the right balance between social, environmental and economic objectives, which is a shared responsibility between governments, the private sector and civil society to work towards a collaborative solution for a sustainable palm oil industry” he said.