Nigeria’s effort at boosting its non-oil revenue is gathering momentum as experts have unveiled potentials inherent in the exploitation of opportunities in the Shea industry, of whichNigeria prides itself as global highest producer.

Shea, abundant in Nigeria, is derived from the Shea tree which grows only in the Northern Savanah belt of West Africa.

At a two day International conference in Lagos which opened Monday, themed “Unlocking market opportunities in Shea Value Chain,” cross section of experts were of the consensus that, removing bottlenecks that inhibit Nigeria from playing globally in the Shea industry, would ensure that Nigeriaattains peak position in the global Shea market.

The conference, a product of the collaboration of stakeholders in the Shea sector, comprising the global Shea Alliance, National Shea Producers Association of Nigeria(NASPAN) and the Nigeria Expanded Trade and Transport Program (NEXTT), was fully sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Also, in attendance were international buyers and participants in Shea business, including, Michel Eggen, 101 leaders and Mr. Senyo Kpelly, social entrepreneur and CEO Sekaf Ghana Limited, a major player in Ghana Shea industry. Ghana is the world’s 3rd largest producer of Shea and also, leading exporter of Shea Butter globally.

Some of the challenges identified at the conference, as militating against development of Shea business in Nigeria include, inability of banks to lend to the sector, low quality Shea Butter, poor pricing, and lack of education.

Challenges also include, lack of regulator body to regulate Shea business, 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.

Mr. Jibril Bokani, President, National Shea Producers Association of Nigeria (NASPAN), said that the total Shea production is estimated at around 600,000m/tones of dry kernels per anum, the Shea industry supports employment for more than 16 million women across 21 countries in Africa, however Nigeriastill lags behind in tapping inherent opportunities in global Shea business.

“At this point, it is our collective responsibility and challenge on the federal government ofNigeria, its ministries and Agencies as well as development institutions , NEXIM, BOI, BOA, NDB, research institutions such as RMRDC, NIFOR and all other relevant stakeholders to develop the Nigeria Shea industry to attain rightful position as the global leader” he said.

The NASPAN President said that Nigeriacurrently produces 300,000 tons of Shea nuts per anum, as the highest producer, but the volume is estimated at 40 per cent of the real potential.

He said that irrespective of being the highest producer of Shea globally, Nigeria 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.”

Isaac Adegun, Deputy Chief of Party, NEXTT Projects, in his remark said that the two days conference aims to unlock the Shea value chain in Nigeria’s economy, which entails removing bottlenecks that inhibits Nigeriafrom playing globally in the Shea Industry and attaining pride of place in the global Shea market.

He said that Nigeria has more Shea trees and produces more of Shea, but globally, Nigeriais not known as player in Shea business globally.

According to him, the forum brings key stakeholders, including international buyers toNigeria for assessment of the country’s wealth in Shea and explore the possibility of establishing offices in the country. Also, to harp on sustainability of the business in the country.