This throwback picture from Monday, March 20, 1922 will have many Nigerians thinking about the past of the country and how things went really bad.
West Africa used to be the centre of the palm oil industry. From research carried out by NAIJ.com, the export of palm kernels began in 1832 and by 1911 “British” West Africa alone exported 157,000 tonnes of which about 75 percent came from Nigeria.
Led by Nigeria and Zaire, Africa continued to lead the world in production and export of palm oil throughout the first half of the 20th century.
In Nigeria, oil palm is indigenous to the coastal plain, having migrated inland as a staple crop. For millions of Nigerians, oil palm cultivation is part of the way of life –indeed it is part of their culture.
However, during the past decades the country has become a net importer of palm oil. While in the early 1960s, Nigeria’s palm oil production accounted for 43% of the world production, nowadays it only accounts for 7% of total global output.
Below is the picture:
What went wrong?
In 1971, the share of agriculture to GDP stood at 48.23 per cent. By 1977, it had declined to almost 21 per cent. This was partly because, agricultural exports, as a percentage of total exports, which was 20.7 per cent in 1971, reduced to 5.71 percent in 1977.
This was majorly due to the oil boom, the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in the mid-1950s, and the Arab oil embargo on the USA in 1973, affected the agricultural sector adversely.
The economy became heavily dependent on oil. Oil revenue represented almost 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings and about 85 per cent of total exports.
While the boom afforded the government much needed revenue, it also hit the agricultural sector badly.
Rural urban migration increased, as people attempted to reap or benefit from the windfall from oil, therefor the production of agricultural commodities for export declined.