Nigeria’s expenditure on coconut importation annually cannot be described as anything short of outrageous, as shown by data from the United Nations Statistical Office.
The data obtained from the UN office shows that Nigeria spent $219,446.53 and $293,214.22 on coconut importation in 2019 and 2018 respectively, an amount higher than $186,094.58 that was spent on coconut importation in 2017.
According to Nma Okoroji, the president, National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN), Nigeria’s importation of coconut has risen over years by more than 80 per cent as the country has not been able to produce enough coconut locally.
“Between 265 tons of coconut are produced in Nigeria presently and 70 per cent of it is produced by Lagos State and 30 per cent is produced by the other states in Nigeria. But, as the national president, the association cannot promote what we don’t have.
“We don’t have enough coconuts in Nigeria presently; 80 per cent of the coconuts that are used in this country are imported and the cost of importation is getting higher and higher everyday,” she said.
“In Nigeria, coconut farming is a cash tree that receives very little attention.
“The farming is a ‘gold mine’ because of its wide range of industrial applications of most of the products. For a crop not indigenous to the country, she is blessed with the trees which could help harness the development of industries through which the standards of living can be improved.
“In Nigeria, low production as a result of old plantations and the varieties, have reduced coconut industrialisation,” she added.
Coconut is one of the important and useful palms in the world.
Coconut is a cash crop grown in most of Nigeria’s 36 states.
Coconuts in Nigeria
In 1876, Nigeria established its first coconut plantation in Badagry, Lagos State.
Apart from consuming the fruit and water, the parts of the plant are also used by many industries such as pharmaceuticals, beverages and cosmetic industries.
The extracts are processed into food, fruit drinks, and cosmetics.
The coir can be used to make brushes, ropes, floor mats, mattresses, strings among others while the leaves are used for building and furniture making.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Nigeria ranks 19th, far behind Indonesia, Philippines, and India as the topmost producers of coconut in the world.
As of 2010, the annual coconut production in Nigeria according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was 263,815MT. In 2011, the figure rose to 265,000MT before dropping to 264,814MT in 2012 and then eventually settled at 266,045MT, 267,520MT in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
The country experienced yet another increment in 2015, thereby bringing the total production value to 269.373MT.
Furthermore, in 2016, there was an increase in production value, at 283,140MT, which was evidently higher than the previous years, before experiencing a slight decline to 281,626MT in 2017.
Moving on, the country had another increment, bringing the production value to 290,288MT in 2019 from 285,200MT in 2018.
Coconut as an income-earning produce
Considering the money spent on coconut importation annually, Nigeria can gain more if more is produced locally.
The chapter chairman of the National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN), Kingsley Isong, attributed the high cost of importation to the country’s production and demand shortfall.
‘’The high cost of importation is because there is a production and demand shortfall. What we are producing cannot adequately address what we are consuming,” he said.
“In fact, it’s going to get worse now that we are going into actual processing when there’s going to be a serious demand for coconut.
“I can tell you that over the last decade, the global demand for coconuts and its derivatives increased by over 500 per cent.”
Speaking further, he stated that Nigeria imports coconut seedlings and its nuts from other neighbouring West African countries.
“We import more… we import seedlings from outside the country, especially Malaysia, but we import the coconut itself from the West African countries – Ghana and Ivory Coast.
“Before now, we did not even know that most of the coconut that we eat is actually coming in from outside, even people on the street did not know that.
“Here in the north, they eat a lot of coconuts, so the coconut comes from Ghana and they truck it everywhere to the north and other parts of the country, immediately after the border closure that is when we realised that the coconut that we are eating is from Ghana.
At some point, there were about 70 trucks of coconut at the border, and they couldn’t enter and the cost of coconut went up.
“We are the highest consumer, you can imagine if Ghana that has about a million people is producing 400,000MT and Nigeria with its coconut eating population is producing only 290,000MT you can see the shortfall,” Mr Isong said.
“Another thing which is going to happen is that, you know, like Akwa Ibom State has just built a coconut mill factory. That factory can crack about 300,000 nuts a day.
“So, with all this coming up the demand on coconut is going to become higher and the cost on the street is also going to become higher unless something is done.
“Do you know they use coconut for sugar refinery?
“And every drop of coconut oil in Nigeria used in sugar refineries is imported,” he added.
The cost of coconut importation in Nigeria in the last decade was the highest in 2011, a comprehensive data illustrates this.
Data obtained from the United Nations Statistical Office show that Nigeria’s cost of coconut importation was highest in 2011, with an import amount of $9,495,210 followed by 2016 with $590,604.00, although there was no recorded data in 2015.
This shows that Nigeria spent more on coconut importation yearly, although the exchange rate of the US dollar in the last 10 years, varies.
Mr Isong urged the government to support farmers with more improved seedlings to cut the cost of importation.
“Government must assist the coconut value chain. The federal government has identified coconut as (part of) six or seven critical cash crops in the country.
“That identification means coconut is very important as a cash crop in the country.
“The problem we have right now is actually seedlings because the local coconut cannot compete – in terms of yield and also the duration for fruiting – with the imported ones.
“Take for instance, our own that we call Guinea tall, starts fruiting between 9 -15 years. This is a long time. There’s what we call the Malaya dwarf. This one fruit between three years, compared to our own.
“If you plant now, in the next three years you are going to begin to harvest.
“If we can support farmers to begin to cultivate the dwarf, which has high yield and earlier harvesting, it will be a plus to increase coconut production in the country.
“And, it will definitely bring down the cost of importation,” he said.
“We need the government’s support, especially in terms of seedlings. We need the government to waive import duty on seedlings. we need their support in the provision of organic fertilizer.
“We intend to emphasise organic production because the world is more interested in organic production, as organic coconut oil sells better than any other coconut oil,” he added.