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18.02.2009 Business & Finance

Palm kernel industry facing extinction


Palm kernel oil producers at Kwesiministim and Effiakuma have expressed the fear that their business might collapse if steps were not taken to salvage the industry.

They said the sector lacks capital and the excessive importation of cheap edible oil was killing the industry, forcing many young people to abandon the once booming business.

Madam Joyce Bong-Abo, a spokesperson for the group, told the GNA in an interview that many people she started the business with over 20 years ago had abandoned it due to old age.

She about 50 of them used to engage actively in the business but now only 20 people are involved in the daily production of palm kernel oil.

Madam Bong-Abo said a new entrant into the business would need a start up capital of between 500 and 700 Ghana cedis and this is difficult to get.

Palm kernel oil is used in food preparation, soap making and as a medicinal product. Palm kernel shells are used as dust palliative on unpaved roads, while the palm kernel cake is used as a food supplement in feeds for diary animals and pigs.

She said another major challenge was their source of raw material - palm kernel.

“We have to move from house to house within the metropolis and buy palm kernel from households before we transport them to our business location for processing.”

Madam Bong-Abo said apart from the nut-cracking machine that they bought over five years ago most of the entire processing is done manually.

Also, their reliance on firewood and earthen fire place popularly known as "mukyia" was a major drain on their finances.

She said their major clients were soap manufacturers, senior high schools with boarding facilities, primary schools engaged in the school feeding programme and fried fish sellers.

Madam Bong-Abo said their business usually slowed down when schools vacate and during the lean fishing season and “during such occasions our products must sit idle till we can find markets.”

Mr. Tony Moses, Budget officer of the Sekondi/Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly, said there were some investment funds that must be distributed to SMEs in the metropolis but these could only be given to associations.

He said though the assembly in 2008 registered over 400 SMEs most did not qualify due to the criteria attached.

Mr. Moses said programmes would be conducted for the SMEs on marketing and accessing credit to enable them to expand their businesses.

He said the Urban Poverty Project targets SMEs that has staff strength of more than five and that it would be difficult for micro firms to benefit from the project.