Postcards from the field: Increasing the profitability of small-scale oil palm production

By: Margaret Arwari

10 November 2020

Photo: Paul Anartey in an oil palm farm

Paul Anartey is a 26-year-old MPhil student in agribusiness at the University of Ghana’s College of the Basic and Applied Sciences. Born and raised in Fumbisi – a town in Ghana’s Upper East Region, near the northern tip of the famous Mole National Park – he comes from a community of farmers. However, according to Anartey, his interest in agriculture only started during junior high school, when he took his first agricultural sciences’ classes. “I found agriculture so interesting that I decided to pursue an agriculture degree at university,” he said.

Since October 2020, Anartey has been working as a field enumerator with the Forest and Horticultural Crops Research Centre (FOHCREC) of the University of Ghana. As Part of the project Governing Multifunctional Landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa (GML), funded by the European Union and coordinated by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), his assignment consists of interviewing small-scale oil palm farmers and finding how to increase the profitability of oil palm production by small-scale farmers.

Paul’s MPhil research is being carried out in  Kwaebibirem Municipality, an important palm oil production site in the Eastern Region of Ghana.

Photo: Paul Anartey interviewing an oil palm farmer in his farm

“I am learning so many things from the farmers,” said Anartey. “For instance, seasonal price fluctuations have a significant effect on farmers’ gross margins.” According to Anartey, in the lean oil palm seasons, farmers get good prices, about 550 Ghana cedis ($94 USD) per tonne of their produce. But farmers’ gross margins are not good during the peak/high seasons because they get low prices of about 350 Ghana cedis ($60 USD) per tonne, even when they try to negotiate with the buyers. “To counter this issue, farmers practice value addition,” explained Anartey. “They process some fresh fruit bunches of oil palm in the high seasons, and sell the crude palm oil in the lean seasons, so they fetch better prices – this enhances the farmers profitability.”

However, Anartey acknowledges, small-scale farmers face a myriad of challenges. “For example, farmers experience low oil palm yields because they use minimal inputs and crop maintenance.”

Photo: Paul Anartey conducts a plot survey with the oil palm farmer

Paul is keen to continue studying and helping farmers solve problems in the agriculture field, specially to produce deforestation-free commodities. “My professional goal is to become an agribusiness expert and provide consulting services to small-scale farmers and other agribusinesses based on sound agricultural research,” he said.