Business

$36bn market: Coconut as Nigeria’s low hanging fruit

As the Federal Government maps out plans to partake in the $36 billion global coconut market, the produce may be another low hanging fruit that could make a positive difference in Nigeria’s economy, ABDULWAHAB ISA reports

To a majority of people, coconut is just another class of fruit, birthed by coconut palm. Its crispy edibility perhaps makes it an irresistible liking by people who make coconut part of their menu. A cash crop, coconut is more than the ‘casual’ nutritional value it offers. The untapped economic value is humongous. Hitherto, the economic aspect of the fruit was hidden to many. In Nigeria, there is a sudden awakening to the untapped economic mileage inherent in coconut. The fruit is a billion dollar spinner. The Nigeria’s economy is set to tap into it.

Untapped goldmine

Nigeria government has demonstrated through action and deed her desire to diversify the economy from oil to agriculture and non-oil sector. While every item on agriculture value chain – rice, maize, palm oil and others -have and are still receiving government’s interventions through the central bank’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, coconut is yet to be included. Like other potential produce, Nigeria is massively blessed with coconut. As a cash crop, coconut is grown in over 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states, with Lagos and Akwa-Ibom reputed for having the largest production area. An estimated 36,000 hectares is currently under cultivation in Lagos, Akwa-Ibom and Rivers. Available statistics ranks Nigeria 18th in world’s coconut producing nations. Largest producing nations of coconut are Indonesia, Philippines and Tanzania. Tanzania ranks highest in Africa. Experts say Nigeria’s coconut Industry potential is about 80 per cent untapped. However, and ironically too, coconut sector had been characterised with massive import, thus ripping off the country her revenue and scarce forex. Besides the amount it is losing in terms of revenue and, scarce forex exchange it deploys to import, importing coconut robs off the country in its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Coconut outlook

Currently the country’s output of de- husked nuts is put at 257,520 metric tonnes. The tonnes are used in producing less than 1,500 tonnes. Records indicate that, Nigeria’s coconut oil domestic consumption is 7,000 metric tonnes, thus leaving a supply gap of about 5,500 metric tonnes. Similarly, recently released statistics showed 200 coconut trees can be planted in 10,000 sqm (1 hectare) of coconut farm. Experts say a coconut tree has a production life span of 80 years and produces 200 coconut fruits yearly. Nigeria’s potential revenue from 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is estimated at N11,840,000,000. According to experts, coconut Industry has an inelastic value chain that transcends health benefits, employment generation for youths and women, family economic empowerment, medical industry, furniture, domestic kits and a source of national income to boost Nigeria’s GDP.

Changing the narrative

To accord coconut cash crop its rightful position, there is on-going collaboration between department of Commodity and Export department of the Industry, Trade and Investment and Coconut Producers, Processors and Markets Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN) with positive mileage intended outcome. Commodity and Export department of the ministry headed by Mr. Suleman Audu has given wings to many of Nigeria’s commodities to fly outside of Nigeria. The department is giving same opportunity and platform to coconut. The department is currently collaborating with stakeholders in coconut sector. NACOPPMAN in conjunction with Commodity and Export department of the Ministry of Investment, last week, flagged off 2021 coconut planting season recently in Abuja. Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb., Mariam Yalwaji Katagun, pledged government’s support to changing coconut narrative for better. Promising that government will accord coconut production total support it deserves, the minister said such a support is a demonstration of government’s preference for growing agriculture sector. She said government was poised to tap from the over $36 billion global coconut market with intensified efforts. “Ladies and gentlemen, the global market for coconut is in excess of $6 billion, which means that the opportunities are huge. Therefore, as the 18th largest world producer of coconuts, we must work harder to increase our market share and the best strategy is to start the cultivation of the commodity for improved yield, your campaign, “One Family, Three Coconut Trees” is strategic and you must sustain the vision,’’ she said. Continuing, she said the country needed more coconut plantations and industries to support the few in existence in states like Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Rivers and so on. She said coconut industry could be given a boost with more investment with the aim of providing jobs to thousands of unemployed youths, through its numerous value chains. She said government won’t waiver in her commitment to give coconut desired boost. Nigerian government, the minister assured, shall continue to take steps that would lead to the development of coconut sub-sector. She pledged working with the coconut association to create effective support systems for the growth of the commodity, even as she enjoined it to develop an effective work and growth plan that can be supported by government for the expansion of the commodity. Katagum urged private sector to key into the opportunity of developing the coconut value chain in Nigeria. “We are presently producing just 20 per cent of the coconut we consume, we cannot continue to import what we can produce locally, to achieve this, it is imperative to build the capacity of National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria to scale up their capacity to efficiently manage the coconut business in Nigeria,’’ she said. In her address, the President, National Coconut Producers, Processors and Markets Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN), Mrs. Okoroji Nma Okechukwu, recalled the significance of tree planting, especially trees with economic, health and export potential, saying they were overwhelming. “The importance of NACOPPMAN’s COSIN project and the coconut value chain development cannot be quantified because of the immense benefits, these are creation of annual income earnings of N320 trillion to the Nigerian economy, employment generation for 100,000 result–oriented Women and energetic Youth, Exponential growth in our in our gross Domestic Products (GDP). ‘’We are gathered here today to kick-start the 2021 Coconut Planting Season, to propel the establishment of 1,000 hectares of coconut plantation in each of the Coconut viable states in Nigeria and campaign for ‘’One Family, Three Coconut Trees’ in order to bring about the birth of our grand vision – COSIN, planting coconut trees with economic, health and export potentials,” she said. In his remark, the head, Commodity and Export department of the ministry, Mr. Suleman Audu, called for harmonious collaboration, working relationship across all coconut stakeholders towards making Nigeria a net exporter of coconut cash crop. The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Nasir Sani- Gwarzo, noted with relish NACOPPMAN’s six year plan of 2021—2027 to establish a 100,000 hectares of coconut plantation in each of the coconut viable states in Nigeria. She referred to it as an ambitious but realisable plan with potential to rebrand and reposition the coconut industry as an occupation of choice for all. ‘’Nigeria is currently the 18th largest producer of the commodity globally and the worth of the market is in excess of $36 billion, the new drive of actuallying coconut sufficiency in Nigeria will enhance our ranking and increase our market of the product,’’ permanent secretary said.

Last line

For Nigeria to utilise her potential in coconut cash crop and reap bountifully from $36 billion market, it must evolve deliberate policy of attraction that will woo coconut entrepreneurs, investors, processors and stakeholders with capacity to turn the sector to a hub. If given attention, coconut fruit/ cash crop could be Nigeria’s low hanging fruit waiting to be plucked.

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