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‘Nigeria to earn over N20b yearly from coconut, derivatives’

By Femi Ibirogba
14 December 2021   |   2:57 am
Farmers, investors and various governments have been urged to encourage and deepen coconut production and value chain to make the country richer by not less than N20 billion yearly through exports.

Coconut tree

Farmers, investors and various governments have been urged to encourage and deepen coconut production and value chain to make the country richer by not less than N20 billion yearly through exports.

The Director-General of the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussaini Doko Ibrahim, has advocated increased cultivation and value addition to coconuts for agro-economic and social development.

He disclosed to The Guardian that the global coconut bye-product market size is expected to reach $95.64 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc.

Also, it is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 17.8% during the forecast period. In 2019, Indonesia was the largest exporter of coconuts in the world, followed by Thailand and Viet Nam. The three countries held about 23 per cent share of total exports, while Cote d’Ivoire, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Mexico, Guyana and India, all together, made up 17 per cent of the total exports.

Another entrepreneur and coconut production investor, Mr John-Bede Antonio, said several thousands of youths could be profitably employed if each state could devote at least 100,000 hectares of land for cultivation, apart from income and export benefits.

Prof. Ibrahim disclosed that “in Nigeria, coconut is produced in about 22 states of the federation. However, the main producing states are Lagos, where about 70 per cent of national output comes from, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Rivers and Taraba States.”

Despite the huge potential, total local production could only meet about 20 per cent of the national demand.

“As a result, he said, the country had continued to import coconut in increasing quantities over the years. In 2019, more than 80 per cent of the national requirement was met through importation and the country expended $219,446.53 and $293,214.22 on coconut importation in 2019 and 2018 respectively.

“According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the country ranks a poor 19th position in global coconut production,” the RMRDC boss lamented.

The council said there are more than 40 various direct products and bye-products of coconut entering the international markets, and prominent among them is coconut water, which has gained popularity as a result of its health benefits.

Coconut water is the leading plant-based water available for sale worldwide. It reduces the risk of heart disease, boosts kidney health, provides a cardio-protective effect, aids in maintaining blood pressure levels and in diabetes management.

“About 93 per cent of its calories come from fat, including medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCT fats in coconut milk help with weight loss. In Japan, more than 90 per cent of the consumers are lactose-intolerant, yet the high demand for ice cream, yoghurt, and other dairy products drives the demand for dairy-alternatives ingredients, including coconut cream and milk,” the council said.

It increases high-density lipoproteins (HDL) levels, thereby, reduces the risk of heart diseases. The demand for virgin coconut oil (VCO) is growing faster due to the rising use of healthier vegetable oils and the increasing application of VCO in food supplements and premium healthy snacks.

According to the market analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the industrial consumption of coconut oil in the cosmetic and skincare industry increased from 1.51 million metric tonnes to in 2018 to 1.79 million metric tonnes in 2019.

The growing awareness of coconut oil’s anti-ageing properties led to a significant increase in the demand across the beauty and skincare industry.

The council explained that to promote coconut production, the Federal Government had identified coconut as one of the seven critical cash crops in the country. The main constraint of the coconut sub-sector is, however, low production, which is attributable to low productivity and low expansion and rehabilitation of the area under coconut production.

Another major factor limiting coconut production is the dependence on importation of coconut seedlings from Malaysia and the neighbouring West African countries as the local coconut variety, the Guinea Tall variety, cannot compete in terms of yield and the time of commencement of fruiting with the dwarf varieties. The local Guinea Tall variety starts fruiting between 9 -15 years, while the imported dwarf variety commences fruiting between three and four years.

The techno-economic survey, which was initiated by RMRDC in 1987, highlighted the untapped potential of many tree crops following which the council, in May 1994, organised the first-ever investors’ forum, entitled ‘Coconut as Industrial Crop and Raw Materials,’ in collaboration with Lagos State Government.

The forum recommended the need for a clear policy on coconut development in Nigeria and also, the establishment of a Coconut Development Agency in Lagos State. It further recommended the gradual but phased replanting of the old coconut trees in Nigeria with improved dwarf coconut varieties.

The recommendations led to the establishment of the Lagos State Coconut Development Committee in 1995 and the conduct of a Benchmark Survey on Coconut Production in Lagos State in August 1995. The report of the Benchmark Survey indicated that although Lagos State was the largest producer of coconut in Nigeria, the bulk of coconut production actually came from six local government areas, namely Badagry, 50 per cent; Ojo, 40 per cent; Eti-Osa, 3.0%; Ibeju-Lekki, 3.0%; Epe 2.0% and Ikorodu, 2.0%.

Improved coconut seedlings form the basis for the renewed hope to enhance coconut production and create more resource-based manufacturing industries in the country.

Nigeria emerged the preferred investment destination on coconut development at the second World Coconut Congress in Manila, Philippines, in August 2019, after its potential was enumerated.

It is hoped that if all coconut development issues are adequately harmonised and efforts at developing coconut value chain locally are sustained, Nigeria would, within the next few years, be a major force to reckon with in coconut production and processing globally.

The country would be able to generate more than N20 billion in foreign exchange equivalent through export of coconut and its derivatives.