For over time, economists and even politicians have been stressing the need for Nigeria to diversify its economy which has been precariously relying on a mono product, oil, for its sustenance especially for more than 90 per-cent of her foreign exchange earnings.
The need to diversify the economy became imperative in the last couple of decades because of the challenges the nation has been facing especially with its economy anchoring on a single product for its revenue.
The nation has come to face the reality of the uncertainties and turbulence that usually characterise the international oil market which have interplayed to undermine the stability of the nation’s economy.
Apart from hydrocarbon, experts have stressed the need to employ agriculture where a variety of products are produced due to the favourable climatic condition good soil condition and the fact that over 70% of the entire land mass of the country is arable as the surest means of diversifying the nation’s economy.
It is in this direction that we note with delight that anothercommodity which Nigeria hascomparative advantage isshea nut and its butter,which experts say have the potential of earningmore than $2 billion at its current valuefor thecountry.
It ishowever, sad that Nigeria is yet to take advantage of thevast opportunity that exists in the export and value addition of shea nut and butter. Nevertheless, we welcome the federal government’srecent initiativeat encouraging mass production and export of this commodity to make the nation’s dream of diversifying its economy a reality.
At a recent stakeholders meetingin Abuja , Mrs Aisha Abubakar,Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, used the eventto advise stakeholders in the shea sub-sector tomass produce as well as add value to the nuts through processing to access the international market which experts described as a gold mine waiting to be harnessed . The Minister gave the adviceat the 11th Annual International Shea Conference, organised by the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) and National Shea Products Association of Nigeria (NASPAN) in Abuja penultimate Monday.
According to her, the country’s ability to tap the benefit from the sector depends on how well it would develop the capacity of stakeholders, especially women to produce highly competitive shea butter. She also emphasised the importance of adding value to thenuts through processing tomeet safety and quality requirements of the international market.
She emphasized that for Nigeria to benefit from the sector and ensure its continued sustenance, the stakeholders must develop the ability and capacity in creating diversified products from the product so that the nation can have expanded market access for it and its products, according to the minister, this must be achieved if the country must embrace continuous research and development in the sector toward the development of new diversified products and engaging consumers.
She urged Nigerians to use this opportunity to explore the huge potentials available in the Shea sector for the benefit of the country at large.Speaking in a similar vein, Jibril Bokani, President of NASPAN, said that the country produces 57 per cent of the world production of shea, adding that this will in turn create millions of jobs, and wealth opportunities for its citizens.
Director-General of the Niger State Commodity and Export Promotion Agency and a member of GSA, Mohammed Kontagora said Nigeria, which presently accounts for 57 percent of the global shea with a value of $3.8 billion, could address its challenge of poverty through shea butter export.By developing the large-scale production of shea butter in Nigeria, Kontagora noted that the country would be on the right path to diversifying the economy through strategic focus on the commodity’s export business. He said the current global shea value stands at more than 3.8 billion dollars and Nigeria is said to contribute about 57 per cent of the global shea value, whichis about $2 billion additional revenue.
While Kontagora disclosedthat more than 50,000 tonnes of the product could be exported from the country per year, he lamented that the lack of adequate statistics on shea butter production wasone of the factors militating against the development of the sector in Nigeria. He also noted that the country loses most of the financial benefits that should come to the country as a result of the smuggling of the produce. He said about $2.166 billion, (N335.73 billion) revenue in excise duties is lost yearly by the Federal Government to illegal exportation ofthecommodity out of the country.
The DG disclosed that at least 50 trailers carry shea butter and its derivatives cross the Nigerian border daily to Benin Republic from the Niger state alone, while Nigeria’s Customs Service appear unable to check smuggling activities. The stakeholders meeting on shea could not have come at a better time than now when all hands should be on deck for the diversification of the nation’s economy. The Federal Government and its relevant agenciesshould rally round and address some of the challenges facing the production and export of the commodity . The most urgent challenge to be tackled isthe smuggling of the product to neigbouring countries thereby
denying the nation the much needed revenue. The Customs and other agencies should rise up and tackle the menace before it gets out of control.