Oil Palm Farming: A Guide on Oil Palm Cultivation in Nigeria

March 24, 2022

Oil palm is a perennial crop and one of the highest yielding oil crops in the world. Oil palm is usually cultivated in the southern part of Nigeria due to the favourable climatic condition in this location.

The oil palm tree or crop produces a lot of things. It produces palm oil from the palm fruit bunches. It also produces Palm Kernel Oil (PKO) from the palm kernels. The nuts in the palm kernels can be eaten by human and animals. The palm kernel shells can be used for generating power.

The oil palm tree belongs to the family of Arecaceae and the genus of Elaeis. Oil palm is grown in about 28 states in Nigeria. However, it is most widely grown in the southern states of Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Abia and Bayelsa.

oil palm farming

How to Cultivate Oil Palm in Nigeria

Below are the steps to take to cultivate oil palm or start an oil palm plantation in Nigeria:

  • Farmland Site Selection
  • Soil Preparation
  • Choosing of Oil Palm Variety to Grow
  • Equipment
  • Irrigation
  • Climatic Conditions
  • Nursery Preparation and Management
  • Transplanting of Seedlings to Field
  • Weed Control
  • Fertilizer and Manure Management
  • Management of Pests and Diseases
  • Harvesting
  • Processing of Oil Palm Products
  • Marketing
oil palm distribution

Source: www.greenpalm.org

Farmland Suitable for Oil Palm Cultivation

To grow oil palm in Nigeria, it is better to get a farmland that is easily accessible and safe. If the farmland site is too remote, it may be difficult to get workers to work on the farmland. It will also be expensive to evacuate the farm’s products.

The road to the farmland should also be motorable. This is very important as bad roads can lead to loss of perishable oil palm products.

Climatic Conditions Suitable for Oil Palm Farming

Oil palm does well in areas with humid climatic conditions. The crop needs a temperature of 21 Celsius to 33 Celsius to thrive well. Like all tropical crops, it needs an abundance of sunlight. Oil palm needs about 6 hours of sunlight every day for it to thrive well.

The annual rainfall needed for oil palm crop is 2,000mm to 4,500mm distributed evenly all through the year. Oil palm is a water guzzling crop. It needs a lot of water for maximum yield. This is one of the reasons it thrives well in the southern part of Nigeria. For areas with sparse rainfall, irrigation must be used.

Oil palm needs a humidity level of 70% - 100% for it to grow well. It is a humidity loving crop.

Soil Suitable for Oil Palm Plantation

Oil palm can grow on most types of crops. However, this crop does well when grown in a loamy soil. It prefers soil that as a good water draining capacity and a lot of humus and organic matter. The soil should also be at least 1 metre deep for root expansion.

Clay soil retains a lot of water and lacks enough calcium; oil palm does not grow well in soils that are too clayey.

The soil should ideally have a pH of 4.0 – 7.0. Too acidic soil will impact nutrient usage by the soil palm trees. If the soil is too acidic, limestone or dolomite can be added to the soil to increase the pH. Soils that are too alkaline should also not be used for growing oil palm.

Soil Preparation

If the farmland is a virgin forest, the trees and stumps must be removed. Depending on the size of the farmland, human labourers or machines can be used.

The soil should be ploughed several times till the soil forms a fine tilth. Harrowers can also be used to harrow the soil.

If the soil has a low cation exchange capacity, organic matter can be added to the soil during ploughing. Ridging may be done in some cases, especially, if there is a risk of water logging or flooding.

High phosphate fertilizer like Single Super Phosphate fertilizer or Diammonium Phosphate Fertilizer should be added to every pit meant for planting of the soil palm seedlings. Depending on the nutrient profile of the soil, up to 500 grams of Single Super Phosphate fertilizer may be applied per planting pit.

About 145 oil palm seedlings can be planted on one hectare of farmland, if the triangular planting pattern of 9 metres by 9 metres by 9 metres is used.

Oil Palm Varieties

There are four major oil palm varieties that can be planted in Nigeria, they are:

Nigerian Oil Palm Variety

This variety is the local open pollinated variety that has been planted by Nigerian oil palm farmers for several decades. It has a lesser oil yield than the hybrid variety and takes a longer time of 6-8 years to fruit. However, it has resistances to some oil palm pests and diseases prevalent in Nigeria.

  • Tenera: This is one of the most popular hybrid oil palm varieties in Nigeria. Tenera oil palm variety was derived from the cross of Pisifera and Dura varieties. Tenera is similar to supergene variety. It has a thin shell and yields a lot of oil when harvested and processed.
  • Pisifera: This variety has a thick shell; it has a lesser oil yield than Tenera. It is not commonly grown in Nigeria.
  • Dura: This variety does not have shells, though it produces oil. It is also not common in Nigeria.

It should be noted that the prices of oil palm seedlings vary in Nigeria.


The equipment to be used for an oil palm plantation will depend on the size of the farm. For big oil palm plantations, the following equipment may be needed:

Farm mechanization can significantly boost farm operations’ efficiency and reduce the need for human labour.


Oil palm crop does well and grows faster when it is irrigated. Adequate irrigation has shown to speed up fruiting of oil palm by up to 18 months in some cases.

Irrigation involves the artificial application of water to oil palm. In Nigeria, most oil palm farmers rely on rain; this reduces the yield potential of their oil palm crops.

The following types of irrigation can be used for oil palm:

  • Drip Irrigation: Drip irrigation ensures the passing of water to the rot zones of crops in a droplet or trickle manner. In drip irrigation systems, a network of drip tapes, pipes or hoses and emitters are used. For oil palm, the emitters or drippers are placed beside the roots of each oil palm tree. A single mature oil palm tree may need above 50 litres of water per day.
  • Sprinkler: Sprinklers spray water on crops. Types of sprinklers that can be used for oil palm include rain guns, micro-sprinklers and rain hoses. Sprinklers function like rain. Sprinklers can also create a micro-climate around the oil palm trees.
  • Furrow Irrigation: This is the passing of water between the ridges or beds on a farmland. This is the least preferred form of irrigation for oil palm as it can lead to root rot.

Oil Palm Seeds and Nursery Management

oil palm cultivation in Nigeria

Oil palm propagation is mainly by the seeds. The seeds are extracted from the palm fruits and pre-heated for 75 days at a temperature of 40 Celsius. In hot tropical clime like Nigeria, the seeds can be sun dried for 40 – 75 days. The seeds need to be pre-heated because of the high seed dormancy rate of oil palm seeds.

After heating the seeds, the seeds should be soaked in running water for 4 – 6 days. Microbial innoculants may be added to the soaked seeds, this will expedite the process of sprouting and also act as an antagonistic agent to any pests or diseases.

The seeds will generally start to sprout after 9 – 12 days of soaking. Once, the seeds sprout, they should be put in polythene back filled with soil and manure. The polythene bag should be wetted with water every day for the seedlings to grow well.

A part of manure and a part of soil should be used for the poly bags. The mix of manure and soil should be cured before the seed sprouts are placed in the grow bags.

The grow bags may be mulched if the sun is intense. A shed should be constructed for the nursery. A shade net should be placed on top of the nursery house or shed to shade some of the sunlight.

Small sprinklers can also be installed in the nursery house to irrigate the oil palm seedlings.

Transplanting of Oil Palm Seedlings

After months of nursing the oil palm seedlings in the nursery, they should be transplanted to the field.

Planting holes should be dug several days before transplanting. Well-rotted manure should also be available and Single Super Phosphate fertilizer.

Irrigate the planting hole before transplanting the seedlings. Carefully remove the seedling from the grow bags and place in a vertical form in the planting hole. Fill up the planting hole with more of well-rotted manure than soil. 400 – 450 grams of single super phosphate fertilizer should be placed in every planting hole.

Mychorizhae and other microbial innoculants may be added to the planting hole to improve the well-being of the oil palm seedlings. If the soil is infected with nematodes, suitable nematicides should be applied.

About 145 oil palm seedlings can be planted on one hectare of farmland, if the triangular planting pattern of 9 metres by 9 metres by 9 metres is used.

Transplanting is usually done in the month of May, which is considered the best month to plant oil palm seedlings because of the abundance of rainfall.

Weed Control

Cutlasses and hoes can be used to remove weeds on the oil palm plantation. Motorised implements like tractors, weeders and tillers can also be used to manage weeds on the plantation.

The use of cover crops is also an effective weed control strategy. The cover crops will cover the soil and prevent other plants or weeds to grow on the soil. The cover crops can also guard against erosion and leaching of nutrients.

The use of mulches can also be a great weed control strategy. Plastic mulches can be used. Also, organic mulches like rice straw and banana leaves can be used to mulch the soil.

Fertilizer and Manure Management in Oil Palm Cultivation

The oil palm crop is a heavy feeder. It requires all the nutrients needed by a typical crop for its growth and well-being. Oil palm needs all the macro-nutrients namely nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. It also needs calcium and magnesium.

Oil palm also needs all the micro-nutrients like molybdenum, sulfur and boron etc. 50 kg – 100kg of well-rotted manure should be added to every planting hole. 400 – 450 grams of single super phosphate fertilizer should also be added to each planting hole.

For manual application of fertilizers, fertilizers should be added at four intervals to the soil palm crop every year.

Some of the fertilizers that can be used for oil palm farming include the following:

  • NPK fertilizers
  • Single Super Phosphate Fertilizer
  • Urea
  • Potassium Humate
  • Boron Fertilizer
  • Calcium Magnesium Nitrate Fertilizer
  • Potassium Nitrate
  • Potassium Sulfate etc.

Soluble fertilizers can also be passed to the oil palm trees through Fertigation. The venturi injector in the drip irrigation system can be used to inject soluble fertilizers to the root zone of the oil palm tree. Fertigation is much more efficient than top dressing and side dressing of fertilizers.

Pests and Diseases of Oil Palm

The following are the pests and diseases that affect oil palm crop and how to prevent or manage the diseases:

Oil Palm Swollen Shoot Disease

This disease is transmitted by mealy bug to oil palm trees. The shoots and roots of the oil palm trees swell up; this reduces the ability of the roots to take in adequate water and nutrients from the soil. This disease can lead to a significantly lesser yield; it can also lead to the death of the oil palm tree. It can be prevented by using the appropriate insecticide to kill mealy bugs on the farm.

Die Back Disease

The die back disease causes the death of shoots, stems and leaves of the oil palm tree. This can lead to a significantly reduced yield. The die back disease is spread by mired bugs and capsid. The use of a good insecticide can prevent the ability of the causal organisms to live on the farm.

Oil Palm Canker Disease

This is a disease caused by an oomycete. The oomycete is called Phytophthora Palmivora. It can cause the death of the oil palm tree if not tackled on time. The use of an appropriate fungicide can prevent the outbreak of this disease.

Other pests that can affect oil palm crop incude:

  • Mirids
  • Mealybugs
  • Aphids
  • Caterpillars
  • Termites
  • Nematodes etc.


Harvesting starts ideally from the 3-5th year of planting, this depends on the variety of oil palm planted.

For large oil palm plantation, the motorised oil palm harvester can be used to harvest the palm fruit bunches.

A trailer attached to a tractor can then be used to transport all the harvested palm fruit bunches to a store or the processing point.

The use of cutlasses and sickles for the harvesting of palm fruit bunches is tedious and slow. However, these tools can be used for small oil palm farms.

Harvesting should be done when the palm fruits have turned to yellow or red colour.

Cost of Planting Oil Palm Per Hectare

The cost of setting up a one hectare plantation of oil palm varies, below are some tables that analyses the cost, revenue and profit analysis of a one hectare oil palm farm

Year 1Year 2Year 3
Cost of Land Acquisition                     100,000.00Fertilisers         85,000.00Fertilisers         95,000.00
Cost of Oil Palm Seedlings                     150,000.00Manure           5,000.00Manure           5,000.00
Fertilisers                        75,000.00Pesticides         10,000.00Pesticides         10,000.00
Manure                        10,000.00Labour Cost         50,000.00Labour Cost         50,000.00
Pesticides                        10,000.00Herbicides         15,000.00Herbicides         15,000.00
Cost of Transplanting                        10,000.00Farm Tools and Machines         25,000.00Farm Tools and Machines         25,000.00
Labour Cost                        50,000.00       190,000.00Cost of Harvesting         20,000.00
Herbicides                        15,000.00       220,000.00
Farm Tools and Machines                        20,000.00
Farmland Preparation                        50,000.00

Revenue Analysis (Palm Oil)Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6Year 7Year 8Year 9
Yield of Palm Oil (tons)0.50.7512344
Price of Palm oil/ton                  1,000,000.00   1,000,000.00   1,000,000.00   1,000,000.00   1,000,000.00   1,000,000.00   1,000,000.00
Total Revenue                     500,000.00       750,000.00   1,000,000.00   2,000,000.00   3,000,000.00   4,000,000.00   4,000,000.00
Profit Analysis (Palm Oil)Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6Year 7Year 8Year 9
Total Revenue                     500,000.00       750,000.00   1,000,000.00   2,000,000.00   3,000,000.00   4,000,000.00   4,000,000.00
Total Cost                     490,000.00       190,000.00       220,000.00       220,000.00       220,000.00       220,000.00       220,000.00
Profit (Palm Oil)                        10,000.00       560,000.00       780,000.00   1,780,000.00   2,780,000.00   3,780,000.00   3,780,000.00
Revenue/Cost/Profit of Palm Kernel Oil (PKO)Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6Year 7Year 8Year 9
Yield of PKO (tons)
Price of PKO/ton                     650,000.00       650,000.00       650,000.00       650,000.00       650,000.00       650,000.00       650,000.00
Total Revenue on PKO                        65,000.00         97,500.00       130,000.00       260,000.00       390,000.00       520,000.00       520,000.00
Cost Incurred on PKO                        26,000.00         39,000.00         52,000.00       104,000.00       156,000.00       208,000.00       208,000.00
Profit (PKO)                        39,000.00         58,500.00         78,000.00       156,000.00       234,000.00       312,000.00       312,000.00
Total ProfitYear 3Year 4Year 5Year 6Year 7Year 8Year 9
Profit (Palm Oil)                        10,000.00       560,000.00       780,000.00   1,780,000.00   2,780,000.00   3,780,000.00   3,780,000.00
Profit (PKO)                        39,000.00         58,500.00         78,000.00       156,000.00       234,000.00       312,000.00       312,000.00
Total Profit                        49,000.00       618,500.00       858,000.00   1,936,000.00   3,014,000.00   4,092,000.00   4,092,000.00

For more information about the cost of setting up a one hectare oil palm farm in Nigeria, please read here.

Yield of Oil Palm

oil palm yield

Source: Frost and Sullivan Research

The yield of oil palm depends on the soil type, climate, availability of water, types of fertilizers used and other agronomic conditions.

One hectare of oil palm can yield 9 – 13 tons after 4 – 7 years of planting. The yield can increase by over 100% after the 8th year of planting.

Processing of Oil Palm Products

Palm Oil Value Chain

Source: Malaysian Palm Oil Board

The oil palm products can be processed into the following:

  • Crude Palm Oil (CPO)
  • Palm Kernel Oil (PKO)
  • Margarine
  • Olein
  • Palm Wine
  • Animal Feed
  • Soap
  • Ethyl
  • Biodiesel
  • Lipstick
  • Emulsifier
  • Palm Kernel Nuts etc.
oil palm farming in Nigeria

Source: Frost and Sullivan Research

Advantages of Oil Palm Plantation

The following are the advantages of having an oil palm plantation:

  • It can provide income for the farmer or owner for several years.
  • Oil palm trees are very hardy and rugged. It is not uncommon to see oil palm trees gutted by fire to regenerate and yield fruits within a short time.
  • Oil palm trees cannot be stolen like most assets. Once planted, the farmer is sure of seeing his palm trees every day.
  • It can provide employment for people in the community.
  • The panting of oil palm trees may be advantageous to the environment as excess carbon in the atmosphere will be absolved by the trees.
  • The derivatives of the soil palm tree are edible and fit for human and animal consumption.
  • The export of oil palm products can increase the foreign exchange reserve of Nigeria.

Large Oil Palm Plantations in Nigeria

The following are some of the largest oil palm plantation in Nigeria:

  • Okomu Oil Palm Plantation, Edo State
  • Okitipupa Oil Palm Plantation, Ondo State
  • Dufil Oil Palm Plantation, Edo State
  • Bruks Plantation Edo Limited
  • Akwa Oil Palm Plantation, Akwa Ibom
  • Saro Africa Oil palm Plantation, Edo State
  • Saturn Farms, Edo State
  • Flourmills Nigeria Oil Palm Plantation, Edo State
  • Presco Oil Palm Plantation, Edo State
  • Adapalm Plantation, Imo State
  • Siat Oil Palm Plantation, Rivers State

Palm Oil Market in Nigeria

drivers of oil palm growth

Source: Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

According to PWC, Nigeria is the largest consumer and producer of palm oil in Africa. Nigeria consumed about 1.3 million metric tons of palm oil in 2018 while production of palm oil was about 1 million metric tons in the same year. This means that the shortfall was imported into Nigeria.

Nigeria was hitherto the largest producer of palm oil in Nigeria in 1960 before it was overtaken by Malaysia and Indonesia.

Palm oil is largely consumed by Nigerians. The prices of palm oil hits the lowest point between February and April every year, it peaks from September every year.

Should you wish to know more about oil palm farming or you want to set up an oil palm plantation, please contact us on 08025141924 or send an email to sales@veggieconcept.ng.

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