Dealers and indeed consumers in the Palm Oil industry are expressing serious concern over presence of adulterated palm oil in markets across the country. Researches shows that some palm oil dealers have taken to diluting original palm oil with substances to maximize profit, at the expense of unsuspecting buyers.
As gathered, when the colourant is mixed with water and added to original palm oil, it increases its redness, which creates the impression that it is better in quality than other oil in the market. It was further learnt that the demand for the adulterated palm oil is increasing unknowingly due to its rich colour and attractiveness, as buyers prefer it to the original oil.
The development has been attributed to rising cost of the original product, as several households cannot afford to pay the high cost. A bottle of 75cl is now between N400 and N500, as against N250 and N300 in 2017/2018. Also, a 4-litre gallon currently sells for between N3, 500 and N4, 000 against its previous price of N2, 000. The adulterated oil is reportedly cheaper.
According to reports, the shady trade, which was prevalent in Lagos, Yobe, and Plateau, has spread to other states across the country, like Abia, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom, raising serious concern for public health. For instance, it was learnt that adulterated oil could readily be purchased in the popular Daleko market, Ikotun, Jankara, Mushin, Ajegunle, Mile 12-all in Lagos, Ibadan, Potiskum,Swali, Oil mill, Greek road, Ahia ohu and Jos. Member of the National Palm Oil Produce Association of Nigeria, in Rivers state who prefers anonymous, confirmed to Kumornews that most of the oil eaten in Port Harcourt and other parts of the country is adulterated.
In recent times, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NCDSC) arrested some palm oil suppliers in Potiskum, Yobe State and in Jos, Plateau State for allegedly adulterating the product with dye from the Leaf Sheath of Sorghum Bicolor. Their arrests led to the confiscation of samples, which after lab tests conducted by National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), showed traces of high acid, high saponification and high relative density.
NAFDAC confirmed that the adulterated palm oil samples tested contained dye, which is capable of causing cancer when deposited in human body.
Kumornews learnt from a food vendor, Mrs Eno Matthew, who operates in Port Harcourt, that two things attract buyers to the adulterated oil, its attractiveness and price. According to her, “it is only when you cook with it you’ll discover that it is different from the real oil. Aside the taste, it makes the soup to be red like blood. It makes the food nauseating”, it produces foams when fried.
She added that there are other types that bring out offensive odour during cooking, admitting that adulterated oil is everywhere now and may be difficult for unsuspecting buyers to identify.
The many consumers interviewed decried the adulteration of palm oil with chemicals used in dyeing of clothes, which they said was unsafe for human consumption.
They also said that unless such unwholesome practices were checked, a major health disaster might occur in the country.
According to a farmer interviewed, the adulteration is not only in palm oil, but also in palm seedlings sold to farmers.
“The palm oil supplied to the Nigerian markets and the diaspora is often adulterated with dye chemicals, which make such oil unsafe for human consumption.
“This act is unacceptable and unless something drastic is done, a health disaster might result in the country.
“Because of the low palm oil production in the country, we contribute nothing to the international global palm oil supply,” he said. The adulterated oil is considered such as having high level of bad cholesterol that graduates to heart disease. It’s easy to be identified as it becomes whitish in the bottom and gets bad easily unlike our pure palm oil that can stay for several months.
When asked what Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) has done to put a stop to adulteration business, an insider confides that the body has done all within its capacity. “We have carried out sensitisation campaigns across states of the federation, especially in Lagos State because most of the oil they are eating in Lagos are adulterated. But because people don’t see the danger involved, they are still buying it. We have even approached NAFDAC, telling them the implications of adulterated oil but because the danger is not pronounced, they are not doing anything. You know in Nigeria when there is no disaster that follows an event government doesn’t react easily, that’s the problem we have.
While linking the development to high demand, he added that with population growth, the country would continue to import palm oil. NIFOR said some states in Southwest, Southsouth and Southeast produce large quantity, but not enough to meet the country’s consumption. “Some of the states export to neighbouring countries to earn foreign exchange. The production is not enough for local consumption as the processing is still done manually by aged people.
“Government can only assist by providing enabling environment with better infrastructure. With our exploding population, we need to go mechanized farming, else, we will keep on deceiving ourselves that all is well, when it’s not. Continuing, he said: “More research institutes with better funding will increase our production. More farmlands to the farmers will increase our production backed by modern tools and bulldozers to clear the land.”
In all of the market dealers especially women, interviewed in Rumuomasi morning market, Rumuokoro market and Rumuokurushi Boundary market, all in Obia/Akpor LGA Rivers State, they all claims knowledge of the adulteration but refuses to speak further on the details. Unfortunately, the differences are not evident to help one identify the original oil and the adulterated ones.
When next you buy, palm oil try as much to ask if only the sellers can be sincere to tell you.