From Okwe Obi, Abuja

The Federal Government and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said the United Kingdom, United States and the European Union reject Shea products from Nigeria and Africa because of the deficit of sanitary and phytosanitary measures for export.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Uzoka-Anite and the WTO Director General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, spoke yesterday at the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) 2024 conference organised by National Shea Products Association of Nigeria (NASPAN) in Abuja, with the theme:  “Bridging the Gap.”

Uzoka-Anite said illegal and indiscriminate felling of shea trees, lack of standard Shea processing facilities and lack of awareness on best practices were hindering the chances of Nigeria to rake in billions of naira.

Represented by the Director Industrial Inspectorate Department of the Ministry, Aniete Umuessien, the Minister, however, said: “ We will also continue to provide physical infrastructures for existing investments to thrive and make every part of the country attractive to new investors”.

In her virtual presentation, Okonjo-Iweala said: “A lot of our Shea products do not meet the sanitary and phytosanitary measures for export. And this is hindering many countries from being able to export.

“In addition, it is crucial we look at the Shea value chain beyond farming and processing the butter.

“How can we in Africa begin to manufacture more finished shea products? When I first took office as WTO DG, I met with a group of Shea cooperative in Oyo State who participated in an event organised by NEPC.

“The WTO, It had worked together to build the capacity to produce quality Shea butter that met international safety and quality standards.

“This cooperative had once being prevented from export but with the work done by all the agencies they were able to receive the International safety certification that allowed them to export to the US, UK, EU middle East and South Africa.

“The income of the women folds has  even tripled and many of them told me how they were able to pay for their children school fees of university education.

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“This is the power of trade. At the WTO I Enhance Integrated Framework in assisting women in least developed countries to benefit from global trade.

“The Enhanced Integrated Framework has provided a total of $9.4 million in support of the Shea sector in West Africa and East Africa.

“Over 35, 000 women Shea processors were trained in quality practices of butter, soap and other value Shea products.

“This resulted in women being able to produce and trade in over  9,800 metric tonnes of finished shea products worth of $3.8 million which was realised as income.”

Also, the Executive Director/CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council

(NEPC), Nonye Ayeni, said in 2023, the production and value of shea along the value chain was $2.17 billion while it is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.1% by 2030, representing the sum of $5.8 billion.

According to Ayeni, countries like India, Japan and South Korea approve use of Shea butter as Cocoa butter equivalent, apart from China, Italy and Netherlands, that are among the leading importers of Shea butter.

“It is on record that the country has about 5 million hectares of shea trees which are grown in about 21 states of the federation especially in Niger, Kebbi, Oyo, Kwara, Benue and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) respectively.

“The opportunities for Shea to transform Nigeria’s economy includes in the area of Job creation, Value Addition and Women Empowerment.

“It is worthy to mention that in 2016 the Council partnered with the World Trade Organization and Standards and Trade Development Facility to execute project 172 which was a game changer in the Nigeria Shea sector.

“The Project succeeded in establishing an effective free fatty acid (FFA) and impurities control system for Shea butter and establishment of 4 Shea butter model Processing Centers in Niger, Kebbi, Oyo and Kwara States,” she said