TECHNOLOGICAL CAPABILITIES OF MECHANICAL OIL PALM PROCESSORS IN ANAMBRA STATE, NIGERIA
The survey was undertaken to assess the technological capabilities of mechanical oil palm processors in Anambra State, Nigeria. Specifically, the study identified the socio-economic characteristics of the mechanical oil palm enterprises/processors/consumers; described the available technologies to processors (fully automated, semi-automated and non-automated oil palm processors; examined technological capabilities (investment, linkage, minor change, major change, strategic marketing and learning mechanisms) of the processors and identified factors influencing the development of technological capabilities of the processors. The survey was carried out in Anambra State, Nigeria. The population of the study comprised mechanical oil palm processors and palm oil consumers in three out of four agricultural zones. Two extension blocks were purposively selected from each of the three zones, while also purposive selection of four circles in each block was done to get a list of two oil mills, two mill operators, two mill managers, two floor workers and two consumers. Thus 48 oil mills were used out of which 48 mill operators, 48 manages, 48 floor workers and 48 oil consumers were selected using simple random sampling technique to get a total of 192 respondents. Data were collected using modified enterprise level interview schedule that contained structured and semi-structured questions. Data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics, including percentage, mean score standard deviation and factor analysis. The findings revealed that socio-economically, the enterprises were small-scale, public/personal service oriented and had three units viz: mill operation for operators, management for managers and production for floor workers. The mill operation was dominated by males only whereas all the processors belonged to low income earners, literate group, middle aged and were mainly married men and women. All the mill operators had mill presses while 97.9% had digesters. All the processors assessed for production showed strong production capabilities which made their oils to rate very good. Both mill operators and managers had poor minor and major change capabilities. All the respondents had high linkage capabilities. The mill operators had strong linkage with consumers group, managers had strong linkage with marketers and abundant linkage with oil consumers. The managers had abundant strategic market capabilities with highest capabilities with open market followed by sales depots as distribution channels. All the assessed respondents for learning capabilities; mill operators and managers had abundant learning capabilities in avoiding oil spoilage. Production, policy/institutional and technological related factors influenced the development of technological capabilities of processing managers. Manpower, technical, personnel and infrastructural related factors influenced the development of technological capabilities of mill operators. Also, management, infrastructural and personnel related factors influenced the development of technological capabilities of floor workers. The study recommends that as all the studied processors were primary processors, extension should co-ordinate the activities of the stakeholders in the oil palm processing industry in areas of policy formulation and implementation and should liaise with state and federal governments to support the industry through fiscal measures such as grants, loans, tax relief and subsidies. This will give the processors capabilities to be involved in secondary processing of palm oil, palm kernel oil and other by products which will add additional financial value to them.