Mrs. Olumuyiwa Afolabi, a middle aged woman is usually seen on entering the first gate of Ikotun market in Igando- Ikotun Local Government Area of Alimosho area of Lagos, she sits with her wares displayed right in front of her as one meander right into the market.
Usually one sees people buying from her, yellowish creamy butter cut into sizes that reflects prices attached to each size.
She tells you that her product “Ori” is original and not fake “taste it” she would say, biting a bit of the creamy substance and offering you to taste.
According to Ventures Africa report, Nigeria, presently accounts for over 57 per cent of the global Shea with a value of $3.8 billion, largely untapped Shea butter market can yield the country $2bn annually.
Like Mrs. Afolabi, and unlike other products found in the highly populated market, there are few other women selling the same product in and around the market, yet one thing is certain,
there are always many people of different social and economic standing searching for the same product that is now relatively scarce and more expensive in the market.
Speaking on the local way of Shea butter production, she said that the nuts are picked from the forest when they fall from Shea trees.
the nuts are dried with the sun, and later broken to extract the nuts which is later fried as production process for the Shea butter. she said that some people instead of using sunlight to dry the nuts, use fire heat , which is not good.
However, with industrialization of the process to meet global standard, the production process has become more technical.
Daily Times research across Lagos, showed only middle aged, or advanced women are currently engage in the sale of Ori in markets, while the users range from infants to grand or great grandparents.
“People are now taking ‘Ori’ to overseas and they are buying all the ‘Ori’ in the market, which is why the quantity is small” a woman popularly known as Iya Abike that sells Ori “ Shea butter” at Ajagun Kusimi Street, off Ijagemo road, Ijegun , explained to Daily Times on why the product’s price has risen remarkably.
Daily Times Nigeria findings show that different, but similar colours of the product exist in the open retail market, colours vary from deep yellow, to smoky ash, and some colours are sharp and crispy while some are dull.
President, National Shea Producers Association of Nigeria (NASPAN), Mr. Jibril Bokani, told Daily Times that the total global Shea production is estimated at around 600,000m/tones of dry kernels per annum, the Shea industry,
he said supports employment for more than 16 million women across 21 countries in Africa, however Nigeria still lags behind in tapping inherent opportunities in global Shea business.
The NASPAN President said that Nigeria currently produces 300,000 tons of Shea nuts per annum, as the highest producer, but the volume is estimated at 40 per cent of the real potential.
He said that irrespective of Nigeria being the highest producer of Shea globally, the country still remains the lowest exporter of Shea butter and Shea nuts.
“There exists a clear opportunity for Nigeria to create wealth and employment to be driven by value addition and export of Shea butter and Shea cake, not only Shea nuts” he said.
Nigeria ranks as world’s highest producer of Shea butter and has global highest reserve of Shea trees, but instead, neighbouring African countries have continued to grow their foreign exchange earnings through Shea butter, while Nigeria’s fortune is wasting, as non-globally competitive product.
if the fortunes hidden in Shea trees, lying waste in thick forest, is processed to global standard Shea butter, abundant in Nigeria, is derived from Shea tree which grows only in the Northern Savannah belt of West Africa, Nigeria’s economy will record a boost through higher foreign exchange earnings from Shea.
Global organizations including the United states Agency for International Development (USAID) have acknowledged Nigeria’s untapped wealth in Shea, and organized programmes towards creating awareness on the hidden treasures as well as opening up fresh forex earner for the country.
CEO Shae Origin, Abuja based company, and Vice president, National Shea Producers Association of Nigeria, Mrs. Mobola Sagoe,told Daily Times in an interview that she focus more on her business (Shae Origin;” and also collaborate with the USAID on programs at boosting Shea production in Nigeria.
Sagoe, who is into Shea butter production and also has finished shae products told Daily Times that Shea comes into multiple range of skin care products and that her organization is working towards taking Shea business to a higher rewarding level.
“We have improved a lot, for the past five years, a lot of people have gone into Shea business. They are now improving the quality training the women who are into the business.
We train women to pick properly, we train them to process it into butter and then take your butter to the international market and sell the way Ghana is doing.
She said that Ghana is currently the highest exporter of Shea butter, but Nigeria has the highest depository of Shea trees and likely to overtake Ghana in few years to come because of increased interest in Shea business now by many Nigerian entrepreneurs.
“In the very near future we will be able to catch up with Ghana and take over from them. By the special grace of God, people will begin to see Shea as real business in Nigeria, to provide the local women real means of making money , hence Shea business it is now known as business for rural women”
She said that the local women who are into Shea business wants to be uplifted and any energy expended towards uplifting the rural Shea farmers, would also help to uplift the economy.
The recent effort at boosting Shea production and lifting the lives of Nigerians, must trickle down to empowering the rural women show thrive to extract wealth from Shea trees tucked in Nigeria’s deep forests.
According to Sagoe, the improved action on Shea production is focused on raising the earnings of rural women in the trade as well as enhancing the quality, offering and quantity of the produced that are exported from Nigeria the global Shea market.
Dr Oyeleye Olukayode, Senior special assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, told Daily Times in Lagos that government is not to do everything in its agriculture policy, but for the private sector to drive agricultural endeavors, a call that cross section of Shea butter producers in the country have responded to.
However, investigations on harnessing opportunities in agriculture revealed that there is need for government to establish structures that will empower the private sector to key into programs aimed at becoming globally competitive in businesses, including Dates, Cashew nuts, Shea butter and many others.
The USAID, understood what Nigeria and her people stand to gain, if the fortunes hidden in Shea trees, lying waste in thick forest, are harnessed.
This prompted the “Unlocking market opportunities in Shea Value Chain” organized by USAID in Lagos earlier in the year.
CEO Sekaf Ghana Limited, a major player in Ghana Shea industry, Mr. Senyo Kpelly, told Daily Times in the course of this research that great opportunities abound in Nigeria Shea business. But standard has to meet the global level.
He told Daily Times Nigeria that though more Nigerians are not the business now, but they need enabling operating environment and buy in by the financial institutions.
Shea business in Nigeria currently suffers from lack of funds due to inability of banks to lend to the sector, low quality Shea Butter, poor pricing, and lack of education.
Also there is no regulatory body in the country for quality certification to meet global standard, lack of a body to coordinate national Shea business, similar to the Cocoa board, lack of national researches on Shea business global trend, among others.