The Head of Corporate Affairs, Unilever Ghana, Mr. Gabriel Opoku-Asare, has described the palm oil sub-sector as the next “gold” sector for the country if all key stakeholders collaborate to grow the sub-sector to meet the increasing global demand for sustainable palm oil.
Speaking at the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 Palm Oil Initiative Ghana Country Workshop held at the Best Western Hotel in Accra, he said the palm oil sector currently employs over 300,000 people in Ghana and must be given the needed attention to exploit its full potential to make sustainable palm oil production the norm and not the exception.
The workshop was organised by the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) Africa Palm Oil.
In attendance were the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, officials from Ministry of Trade and Industry, Traditional Leaders, Civil Society, Academia, Financial Institutions, Leading Palm Oil production companies and Consumer Goods companies.
The objective of the workshop was to identify the challenges that affect sustainable oil palm production while developing practical principles which will guide sustainable production and expansion of oil palm in Ghana.
As most consumer goods companies and agribusinesses are looking to expand their operations in Africa, there is a huge demand for sustainable palm oil production. Mr. Opoku-Asare 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 – second in Africa and eight in the world, Ghana is 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. As their businesses in Africa have expanded, they import part of their palm oil from outside Africa to supplement local supply. This doesn’t make sense as palm oil is a crop indigenous to West Africa. But Ghana will only be able to access the large and growing market for sustainably produced palm oil if it commits to sustainable production.” he added.
Global Commitment to Sustainable Palm Oil
He said, as one of the world’s largest buyers of palm oil for use in products such as margarine, ice cream, soap and shampoo- buying nearly 3% of global supply. Unilever was one of the first major consumer goods companies to take action to tackle deforestation.
As far back as the mid-1990s, as part of its Sustainable Agriculture Programme, Unilever started developing Good Agricultural Practice Guidelines for palm oil.
In 2004, Unilever became founding members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), to transform markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm.
In 2008, Unilever committed to sustainably source all its palm oil by 2015 and the end of 2012, three years ahead of schedule, Unilever reached its target of 100% certified sustainable palm oil, majority of which was covered by Green Palm certificates.
Unilever has since made substantial progress on traceability, building towards the achievement of its ultimate goal – 100% certified and traceable palm oil by 2020.
Unilever’s sustainable palm oil sourcing policy commits to:halting deforestation in its supply chain, protecting peat lands and driving positive social and economic impacts for local communities, including respecting and recognizing the rights of workers, indigenous people and local communities, as well as increasing the inclusion of smallholders in its our supply chain.
“Unilever believes that a profitable and sustainable palm oil sector must find the right balance between social, environmental and economic objectives. This 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 concluded.