The palms industry constitutes a significant sector of the Nigerian economy, providing food and raw materials for the confectionery and personal care products industry. The sector also provides employment for a large section of the country. Rural communities in South-eastern, South-South and parts of South Western and Middle belt of Nigeria almost entirely depend on oil palm for their livelihood. Coconut is also an important economic palm in these parts of the country. The Raphia palm, which is an intricate part of the vegetation of the fresh water swamps of the South-East, and South West of Nigeria, provides livelihood to the vast majority of the population of the area and serves as a stabilizing vegetation of the fragile ecology of the fresh water swamps of the country. Date palm itself is important in the diet and economy of the Sudan and Sahel savannah of Nigeria. The Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) provides support through research and development to the entire palms industry in Nigeria. The Federal Government in 2005 mandated the Institute to undertake research on Shea in view of its growing economic importance and interest shown in shea butter in foreign markets. The Institute has now commenced activities in this in some identified research areas.
The institute has varied and enormous infrastructure and has made a considerable impact over the years since its establishment in 1939, through research, development, and extension support for the Nigerian palms industry. NIFOR enjoys substantial international standing as a major world centre in oil palm research. The Instituteâ€™s achievements and reputation derive from its highly trained scientific staff, a well established experimental station infrastructure with functional facilities, and a tradition of scholarship and relevant research.