According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Nigeria is the World’s 7th largest producer of tropical fruit. It is therefore symptomatic of Nigerian economic challenges that over 95% of fruit juices consumed in Africa’s second GDP is made from imported concentrates.
The Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC), an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria tasked with promoting the development and utilization of Nigeria’s industrial raw materials reversed the approach and identified the “challenge” of juice imports as an interesting investment and value addition opportunity for the Nigerian economy. Nigerian juice consumption per capita remains fairly low at around 3 litres, well below markets such as Switzerland or Germany with consumptions of 40 litres per capita. Nevertheless, market researchers at the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria believe that for the next few years, demand for packed juice will continue to increase at a rate of 25% to 30% per year, making it a highly desirable investment opportunity.
Figures from FAOStat highlight Nigeria’s place as a top tropical fruit producer in the World
Mrs H. Y. Tanko, Project Manager at the RMRDC explains: “With issues relating to transport and energy infrastructure, a common complaint is that fruit goes to waste. Ironically, when investors look at the rationale for opening a processing plant to make juice concentrate, they look for a large, continuous and sustainable amount of fruit every day of the year, which was not available until now. This is what we started working on.” Smaller processing machines require 10 tons of fruit per hour, but efficient plants will use machines processing up to 120 tons per hour.
Under the aegis of the STEP-B Project, financed by the World Bank, RMRDC supported selected laboratories in each of the country’s six geopolitical zones to develop those seedlings and plantlets required by processing plants. Farmers in the South-West and Benue State have started cultivating the selected varieties with subsidized access to the seedlings. As Valerie Ehimiaghe, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer at RMRDC explains, “building a sufficient knowledge and biotechnology base on which to develop the fruit juice concentrate branch in Nigeria was the first step in developing the sector”.
As for next steps, Transcorp, a Nigerian holding company with an interest in agri-business has set up a processing plant in Benue State, Benfruit. The Government of Niger State, has also supported the distribution of a million seedlings developed thanks to the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Unit at the Federal University of Technology in Minna, the State capital. A transformation plant is soon to follow. Confidently, Mrs Tanko concludes “we can achieve our aim of capturing 25% of the market for juice concentrate within the next few years”.