Photograph — Ambre Blends

As part of the government’s efforts to drive the agricultural industry in Nigeria, a new five-year action programme has been introduced to develop the shea butter sector.

The disclosure was made on Thursday during a stakeholders’ meeting on the ‘Development of a Roadmap for the Nigeria’s Shea Sector’ organised by the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) in collaboration with International Shea Products Association of Nigeria (NASPAN).

The plan, made through RMRDC and in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, is designed to address the problems associated with the shea butter production in Nigeria with a view to maximise the potentials of the sector in Nigeria and increase export volume.

“Despite the fact Nigeria is the largest producer of shea nuts in Africa with a production figure of about 370,000 metric tonnes, which is about 53 percent of the total world output, the country only ranks fourth in terms of export among the African shea butter exporting countries,” Chairman, Roadmap Drafting Committee, Prof. Muhammed Suleiman said.

This initiative by the government is commendable as the shea butter sector, like several other areas in Nigeria’s agricultural industry, is underexploited despite huge potentials.

As stated by Prof. Suleiman, the processing of shea nut into shea butter in Nigeria is minimal. Of an estimated 370,000 metric tonnes (MT) shea nut produced, only about 20,000 MT is processed into butter. This accounts for only about 2,000 MT export share annually, while annual exportation of shea butter by other African countries like Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Togo are 76, 000 MT, 50,000 MT, 60,000 MT, and 20,000 MT respectively, contributing significantly to their GDP.

The roadmap looks to tackle indiscriminate felling of shea trees, lack of standard shea processing methods and facilities, inadequate information/data on small and large scale producers of shea butter, lack of awareness on best practices and poor packaging and branding. Thus, this development comes at a crucial time when there is an increasing demand for shea nuts and butter globally.

Since the last decade, domestic consumption and export of shea nuts have increased worldwide, Suleiman stressed, adding that the increasing demand of shea butter is being used for chocolate and confectioneries, pharmaceutical and personal care industries in Europe and United States.

“The current demand for the Nigerian shea highlights the importance of this roadmap, and as the country welcomes it, there is also need to have a home-grown initiative that would be people indigenous companies to compete favourably with the multinationals. Without this the country would not achieve any inclusive growth and development in the industry,” NAPSAN president, Jubril Usman added.

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