Home » WTO Calls for Quality Boost in Nigeria’s Shea Exports

WTO Calls for Quality Boost in Nigeria’s Shea Exports

Shea Butter’s Global Potential Untapped Due to Quality Issues

by Ikeoluwa Juliana Ogungbangbe
Shea Butter Quality Improvement

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has spotlighted a critical issue facing Nigeria and other African nations in their agricultural export sectors, particularly concerning the shea butter industry. During a virtual address at the 2024 Shea Annual Conference held in Abuja, the WTO Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, emphasized the need for these countries to elevate the quality of their shea products to meet international sanitary and phytosanitary standards. Despite the significant economic and social potential shea butter production holds, particularly for women in rural communities, challenges in meeting these global standards are limiting the sector’s export capabilities.

Shea butter, often dubbed ‘women’s gold’, is a vital source of income for over 16 million women across West Africa, with its production and processing offering a livelihood for many. The industry not only supports the direct income of these women but also contributes significantly to the cosmetic and food industries globally. However, the inability to consistently meet international quality standards poses a barrier to fully tapping into the global market’s potential, which is expanding rapidly.

The conference, organized by the Global Shea Alliance, brought together stakeholders from across the shea butter value chain to discuss strategies for overcoming these challenges. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the efforts already underway to assist Nigerian shea producers in enhancing their products’ quality. She shared a success story of a shea cooperative in Oyo State that, with support from the WTO, International Trade Centre, and Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), managed to achieve international safety certification, allowing them to export to markets in the United States, United Kingdom, Middle East, and South Africa. This certification dramatically increased the incomes of the women involved, underscoring the transformative power of trade.

The NEPC Chief Executive Officer, Nonye Ayeni, further underlined Nigeria’s significant role in the global shea industry, noting that the country is among the world’s largest shea producers. With about five million hectares of shea trees spread across 21 states, Nigeria is poised to play a crucial role in the industry’s future. The global value of shea production and export is expected to reach $5.8 billion by 2030, from $2.17 billion in 2023, reflecting the vast economic potential awaiting optimization.

Ayeni emphasized the opportunities shea presents for Nigeria’s economy, particularly in job creation, value addition, and women empowerment. She pointed out that more countries are recognizing shea butter as a viable cocoa butter equivalent, opening up new markets for high-quality shea products. The NEPC is actively working to enhance the production of shea in Nigeria to meet these international standards, signaling a concerted effort to unlock the full potential of this valuable commodity.

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