The governor said this during a courtesy visit by members of the Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON) at the Government House, Benin City.
He commended POFON for collaborating with the state government, adding, “We have the largest oil palm plantation under cultivation. We put under cultivation up to 250,000 hectares of land for oil palm. Today, we are approaching about 120, 000 hectares. We have about 70,000 and now about 45,000 hectares at the Orhionmwon-axis.
“You have been very helpful in our early days in government to rethink agriculture in the state. The partnership has helped us grow to this point. We have committed some portions of our land for the cultivation of oil palm in the state.”
According to him, “Nigeria did well without crude oil and agriculture drove the growth and development, as both small and large plantation owners drove the growth at that time.
“The large plantation owners did well and we focused more on them as they prepared a large expanse of land for farming cash crops as smaller holders don’t have that capacity. They have access to knowledge and resources to help us introduce the new standard for agriculture.”
He continued, “In the new thinking and a new Nigeria that we are approaching, you are critical and a valuable partner required if this nation must be transformed into an agro-based economy.
“We have to undertake a forest audit to understand the nature of our forest and discovered that part of it has been degraded and decided to convert some of them to oil palm cultivation and agreed to work with you to regenerate part of the forest that has not been badly affected.
“Working with you, we developed the Edo State Oil Palm Programme where we realise that community engagement is very important for the success of the program. Community engagement is critical for success. We have put in place a mechanism to ensure we succeed in this area, as they will be the ones to protect the investment. We are involving the communities in securing our communities and state.”
“In securing our forest we created a forestry law, established a forest commission as it will help us secure our forest better, ensuring the forest is not used by criminal gangs,” Obaseki added.
On his part, the Managing Director of PRESCO, Felix O. Nwabuko commended the governor for his foresight, as the oil palm sector has witnessed significant growth under his administration.