The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) originates from the coastal regions of West Africa and has been grown in other parts of the world since the end of the 19th century.

Currently, around 10 million hectares are planted with oil palm worldwide, predominantly in Indonesia and Malaysia. Oil palm producetwo types of oils: palm oil from the fibrous mesocarp (flesh) and lauric oil from the palm kernel.

Ghana’s first international commercial trade in oil palm took place in 1820. Starting from the wild palm harvesting, oil palm evolved into an agricultural crop and plantations were established by 1850 with the resultant effect that palm oil became the principal export from the then Gold Coast at the time. By the 1880s, palm oil accounted for 75% of the Country’s export revenue.

The Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) has over the years invested about US$20.0 million in the oil palm value chain in view of the importance of the sub sector to the economy of Ghana and its potential to alleviate poverty in the rural areas.

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This investment has greatly contributed in the sustenance of many public and private companies engaged in various activities in the oil palm industry.

Major actors such as Ghana Oil Palm Development Company Limited, Benso Oil Palm Company, Juaben Oil Mills, Apino Oil Palm Company Limited engaged in both production of the crop and subsequent processing have at one point or the other received financing from the Bank. Also primary producers such as Essilfua Farms Limited as well as processers such as Needs West Africa have been financed by the Bank. Support to the major processors has been the reason for the increase in the primary production of the crop as their production becomes market driven.

The bank reckons the recent trend in the use of crude palm oil as energy source for electricity plants and increasingly as biofuel and biodiesel and is ready to partner farmers, entrepreneurs and researchers to explore potential of oil palm as an energy crop.

Palm oil and palm kernel oil have a wide range of applications. About 80 percent is used for food applications while the rest is feedstock and usage in soap, detergents and cosmetics. Among the food uses are refined, bleached and deodorized (RBD) olein used mainly for cooking and frying oils while RBD stearin is used for the production of shortening and margarine. Unfractionated palm oil is used for producing margarine, shortening, vegetable ghee, frying fats and ice cream.

In many parts of Africa including Ghana, palm oil is often consumed in its unrefined state, as an ingredient of traditional dishes.

Palm oil and palm kernel oil are also ingredients for the production of specialty fats, which include cocoa butter equivalents (CBE) and cocoa butter substitutes (CBS) and general purpose coating fats.

Global production of palm oil, the main product, has doubled over the last decade to a current level of over 36 million metric tonnes per year – with Malaysia and Indonesia accounting for about 87%.

Worldwide demand for palm oil is expected to double by 2020 and to meet this high demand, new plantations are being developed and existing ones being expanded in Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries, and to a limited extent  Africa and Latin America.

Ghana produces 243,852 metric tonnes of crude plam oil (CPO) but the local demand is 295,000 metric tonnes showing a deficit of about 51,000 mt annually.

in Ghana, the supply is made up mainly of local production and some imports. The major local producers are the Ghana Oil Palm Development Corporation (GOPDC), Twifo Oil Palm Plantation (TOPP), and Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP).

Unilever is the largest single consumer of palm oil in Ghana. PZ (Ghana) Limited, Appiah Menka Complex, Fats and Oils Limited, Ameen Shangari and other users take limited quantities.