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Shea nut and butter production in Nigeria

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By Mercy Kelani

Over 98% of the processors use native tech to process nut to butter.

The development of the shea nut value chain requires an upgrade at indigenous technology level. According to the stakeholders, the crucial problem impeding the development of the enterprise is believed to be that over 98 percent of the processors are indigenous people, who use native technology to process nut to butter. This was stated by an agriculturist, Mallam Yinusa Abdulhamid. The limitation has caused gross underdevelopment in the value chain, and has slowed down the competitiveness of the product in international and local markets.

He stated that it is prerequisite that spirited efforts be employed to promote the indigenous technology upgrade for the shea butter production and the enhancement of the productivity of the tree. The Raw Material Research Development Council (RMRDC) asserted that naturally, shea trees grow in about 21 out of the 36 States in the country. Approximately, 42 to 48 percent of the oil is found in the kernels, which possess medicinal, healing and skin care properties. Hence, the demand becomes high in different industries.

It is used in producing candles, paints, lubricants, and many more.

This butter is used in the cosmetic industry, pharmaceutical industry and as raw materials in the food industry. Also, the butter is used in producing candles, paints, lubricants, detergents, soap, cosmetics, margarine, chocolate, and as cooking oil in baking. As a result of the presence of low fat content, cocoa and palm oil are used in place of shea butter. This idea is gotten from the melting point of the butter — between 32 and 45°C and high amounts of distearin (30%) and stereo-palmitine (6.5%) — making it align with cocoa butter without affecting the flow of properties.

Considering the 2023 report of the Custom Market Insights, it was estimated that the global shea Butter market rose to USD 2.8 billion in 2022, from the 2021 estimate of USD 2.5 billion. In 2030, there is a projection that it will rise to USD 5.2 billion, between 2022 – 2030, at a CAGR of about 8 percent. Worldwide, Nigeria is ranked as the highest shea belt and also leading producer of shea nut, globally, at 45 percent, with an annual production between 330,000mt and 350,000mt, although in 2019, the potential production was estimated to be at 800,000 mt.

Processing methods involve various sets of operations.

20,000 mt of shea butter is processed into butter while 780,000 mt are transported to West African countries. This is caused by the inability of Nigeria-produced shea butter to attain global standard. Through traditional methods, women in rural areas process butter from the nuts. These methods involve various sets of operations, although some of the methods harm the quality of the products. RMRDC established projects to tackle the shortcomings of the shea nut value chain in Nigeria. For better productivity and butter production, which will promote shea nut trees locally, upgrading of indigenous technology needs to be done.

Furthermore, the council stated that the equipment for the processing of the nuts has been developed, and thus has been erected in Agbaku-eji, Kwara State, specifically for Amanawa Shea Butter Women Cooperative Society and Araromi Women Cooperative Society. Also, there has been an establishment of a model shea nut processing centre in Gawu village. This is sited in Abaji Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). More than 500 youths and women were confirmed by the council to have been trained on the professional practices of the processing and production of shea-based cosmetics and butter production in the North East and North West geopolitical zones.

A plantation has been established with seedlings.

Professor Ibrahim D. Hussaini, the director-general of the RMRDC, highlighted the major issue that affects the development of the nut value is the unavailability of plantations. He explained that the reduction in the long gestation period associated with shea nut trees should be done to encourage the establishment of shea trees. Also, germplasm development studies, through the collaboration between RMRDC and National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), was embarked on to improve and domesticate the seed handling techniques of the tree. Professor Hussaini added that through the use of seedlings, a plantation had been established.

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