The Nigerian Export Promotion Council on Wednesday said it is working towards increasing Nigeria’s exports earnings from shea sector by between 30 er cent and 40 per cent.
The Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the NEPC, Dr Ezra Yakusak, said this during the opening session of the strategic conference and official launch of the Shea Export Development Project.
He said the event is another of NEPC’s collaboration with the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI), Netherlands on value chain development of priority non-oil export products.
This project, he stated, is another effort at consolidating the prospects, potentials and opportunities of the Shea sector in Nigeria for export growth.
The NEPC Boss said the launch of the Shea project is in line with the Federal Government’s diversification agenda for non-oil export development.
He said, “We are projecting up to thirty to forty percent increase to what we are earning now. Right now, the value we are earning now will notice about a thirty to forty percentage increase.
“When we export raw materials, we get little or nothing. When you add value, when you process, you cannot process alone that means you need more people to help.
“You are going to employ people and that is what we are doing. Shea is commodity-based products, women are involved, we also want to empower women and the youth, that’s where we are headed.”
He said the project will focus on critical stakeholders, noting that this intervention will contribute to making a paradigm shift from the export of raw unprocessed Shea nuts to higher value-added Shea products.
The aspiration, he stated, is to uniquely position Shea products in the enormous global market which is driven by important factors such as rising consumer awareness, increasing demand for natural and organic cosmetics without preservatives and chemicals.
Yakusak stated that the NEPC will continue to tackle the challenges impeding the growth and development of the Shea industry in Nigeria.
Some of these challenges include indiscriminate felling of shea trees, lack of standard shea processing methods and facilities, inadequate in formation/data on small and large-scale producers of shea butter.
There is also the issue of lack of awareness on best practices and poor packaging and branding.
The NEPC Boss said that the government understood the importance of the sector, adding that some of the challenges would be tackled to improve standardization and industry growth.
Despite being the world’s top producers of shea, Nigeria only exports about 10 percent of over 250,000 tonnes of Shea nut produced annually.
He said, “NEPC in line with its mandate has been supporting the development of the shea industry in Nigeria from farm gate to internationalization.
“The Council through the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) had implemented the STDF Project 172 on expanding the exports Sesame seeds and Sheanuts through improved Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) capacity building for the private and public sectors.
“As part of the sustainability component of the Project and in order to scale up the knowledge and information acquired under the initiative, processing facilities were established in four centres which today have led to the proliferation of best practices, traceability and investments in both small and large processing facilities across the country.
“I also wish to bring to fore that NEPC put up a proactive response to ensuring that Nigerian stakeholders benefit from the emergence and continuous buyers demand for sustainable environment friendly and healthy products.”
Though its product and market development activities in collaboration with strategic partners as Global Shea Alliance (GSA), International Trade Centre (ITC) SheTrades, West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, Yakusak said the Council has successfully exposed Nigerian brands in specialized and general trade fairs and conferences globally, these efforts have yielded positive outcomes.
“As at today, Nigeria shea products visibly demonstrate a plethora of exotic diversified range from food grade healthy products to an aura of premium pharmaceutical skin care oils, lip balm, innovative children care products and high-quality butter that are visibly known and sought after in the export market.
“It is worthy of mention that a lot is currently being done by NEPC to provide packaging solutions to Small Scale stakeholders to expedite their product penetration into the huge export market,” he added.
He commended the CBI for always identifying with the Council in promoting and implementing critical projects in advancement of the non-oil export economy.
“NEPC promises its unflinching support to the sustainability of these projects and hereby reiterates its willingness to continue working with CBI and relevant partners,” he said.
Also speaking, the Director, Policy and Strategy, NEP, Mr Lawal Dalhat said the NEPC and CBI have a common history of collaboration that spanned decades in the development and promotion of export in Nigeria.
He said the projects under these collaborations have been impactful as the SMEs involved are now players at the international market, specifically, the European market.
He said, “The success recorded at the initial programmes necessitated the Shea project with the objective of strengthening the capacity and improve the lots of operators in this sector, who are majorly women; leveraging on the high potential of Nigeria Shea and its demand at the global market.
“This intervention, we believe, will necessitate increase value and diversified markets through sustainability, improved quality, certification, organic production and refined processing.”
Also speaking at the event, the CBI Netherlands Project Manager, Dorianne Wegen, said that Netherland chose Nigeria as a country of import because it strongly want to promote the non-oil strategic commodities such as ginger oil chain and shea.
She said, “We see so much production and a lot of which goes into the neighboring countries. And we are wondering why Nigeria is not among the top exporting countries in the world. because we see that it is possible, you have the products, you have the intelligence and willingness to do these.
“I think we should work on capacity building through our value chain. And to ensure that the value from shea is spread across the whole chain. So, it doesn’t get stuck at one place so everybody working will share the benefits.”
She stressed the need for more programmes that would promote and increase the export of Nigeria’s Non-Oil products.
The Project Manager promised continuous support to NEPC towards realizing its mandate.