Franctrade understands that a delegation of agribusiness executives and officials from Cameroon’s Ministry of Agriculture recently visited Malaysia to acquire skills on how to optimise output in the oil palm sector. Cameroon has ambitions to increase palm oil output to 450,000 tonnes, from the current 270,000 by 2020.
Cameroon does not produce enough palm oil
Cameroon currently imports over 50,000 tonnes of palm oil or more than 15% of its consumption. Malaysia is the second largest producer of palm oil with output this year expected at 21 million tonnes. Indonesia is the top producer with 35 million tonnes of palm oil output expected this season. Indonesia and Malaysia both account for around 85% of global palm oil production.
A versatile edible oil
Palm oil’s versatility means that in addition to being used as a cooking oil, it is found in food items including margarine, cereals, sweets, baked items, biscuits and chocolates, as well as non-food items such as soaps, detergents and cosmetics. Palm oil is also used in animal feed and increasingly as a biofuel. Of the seven major edible oils (palm, peanut, rape, sunflower, soybean, cotton and coconut), palm oil is the most widely consumed edible oil in Africa, accounting for more than 70% of edible oil consumption.
FrancTrade view: A key risk to plantations in Cameroon is the age of their estates. Our discussions with farmers indicate that the majority of trees are well past their recommended productive lives of 25-30 years.
More broadly, our review of data on current productive plantations in Cameroon suggests that their yields are sharply lower than the global average. We estimate the highest yield of Cameroon’s old palm estates at 1 to 2.5 tonnes of crude palm oil per hectare. This compares with yields of up to 5-8 tonnes per hectare in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Older estates in Cameroon also tend to suffer from disease and significant losses arising from theft at the time of harvest. Although Cameroon is one of the larger producers in Africa, and has the potential to significantly boost output in the medium to long term, we forecast that it will remain a net importer of palm oil through to 2030.
Invest in commercial mills
FrancTrade recommends that smallholder farmers in Cameroon invest in commercial mills with appropriate throughput capacity. This, combined with the right choice of fresh fruit bunches, soil type and materials, will significantly boost oil extraction rates and palm oil quality.