Oil palm is native to Liberia and grows abundantly across the country. Half of Liberia’s oil palm is produced by 30,000 small farmers, . The other half is produced in some 70,000 hectares of oil palm plantations that began in the 1970s. In 2013 Liberia produced 176,000 tons of palm fruit and 49,000 tons of crude palm oil. In addition, Liberia has secured the
investment of four large international firms which were concessioned to develop an additional 870,000 hectares of oil palm. This makes Liberia the perfect place to invest in the processing of crude palm oil into refined oil for cooking, soaps and cosmetics, food processing, mulch, fertilizer, animal feed and bio-fuel. As a member of ECOWAS, Liberia provides the optimal location to supply oil palm products to West African countries, where demand is burgeoning — in addition to Liberia, countries like Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso all register a shortage of oil palm products.
There is a large market opportunity
Liberia’s oil palm market was at least $91.5 million in 2014 and has an average annual growth of 5.9% per year in real terms since 2004. Liberia ranks second in the consumption of crude palm oil and crude kernel oil per person per year in the region, consuming 11 kg per person per year. Only Cote d’Ivoire has a higher rate, while consumption levels per person are lower in Nigeria and Ghana.
The ECOWAS market provides a large and growing market for oil palm products. ECOWAS consumed 2.4 million tons of crude oil palm in 2014 and an additional 1 million tons of refi ned oil palm. The ECOWAS market for cooking oils and fats is expanding rapidly. Imports increased from $351.4m in 2004 to a record $1.4 billion in 2014, equating to a growth rate of 15% per year.
The market for soap products is also large and growing. ECOWAS imported $544 million worth of soaps in 2014, while Liberia accounted for $8.3 million and registered an average annual growth rate of 12.4% over the past 10 years.
It is competitive to grow and process oil palm in Liberia
The price of crude oil palm is $700 per ton. Refined oil palm is worth $1,100 per ton, and it costs $250/ton to refine oil palm in Liberia. When refined, one obtains two products with high market value: Olean and stearin. The retail price of packaged oil palm cooking oil is $1,600 per ton. The minimum wage for skilled labor is only US$5/day, while for unskilled labor its US$4/day. By comparison the cost of unskilled labor in Ghana is US$7/day. The Liberian climate provides the hot and tropical conditions under which the palm tree flourishes
Where to grow and source your oil palm for value addition and processing
Golden Veroleum has a concession for 350,000 hectares in Sinoe, Grand Kru and River Gee, while Sime Darby has a concession for 220,000 hectares in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount. Equatorial Oil Palm has a concession of 169,000 hectares in Grand Bassa and Maryland Oil Palm has 9,000 Hectares in Maryland. GVL and Sime Darby have both planted 10,000 hectares each as of mid-2015 and are developing their fi rst mills. These plantations are growing the Tenera variety.
The concessions are obligated to develop 125,000 hectares of out grower and community oil palm.Natural oil palm (dura) grows abundantly across the country, while there are many smallholder plantations along the rubber belt (the highway from Monrovia to Ganta) and in Lofa, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Grand Bassa. High quality hybrid seedlings are available in smallholder areas, mainly through nurseries established by the ACDI/VOCA SHOPS project (JBariyanga@ acdivoca.onmicrosoft.com). Many seedlings are sourced from the main research station in Cote d’Ivoire or from Ghana.
Liberia is completing the paving of the country’s main highway from Liberia to Ganta on the Guinean border, thus linking many oil palm growing areas to Monrovia, the sea ports and to Guinea, Senegal and Mali. Travel time from Ganta to Monrovia is 3 hours.
Getting your inputs in and your outputs out
Liberia also has major sea ports in Buchanan, Greenville, and Harper that can be used for the import of inputs and export of oil palm.