Avocado commonly referred to as the African Pear has the potential for fostering Nigeria’s industrial growth. The fruit also known as “green gold” for the high prices it fetches can generate foreign exchange in large volume annually.
But despite an abundant water supply, a favorable climate, and wide areas of arable land to plant the commodity, coupled with its export potential, the crop still being neglected by Nigerian government compared to other African governments that take advantage of Avocado’s affluence.
However, Avocado is a versatile fruit as it can be used for both culinary purposes as well as a part of beauty regiments. It is one of the most nutritious fruits as it is very high in fiber, vitamins K, B5, B6, and C, folate and potassium. The bark, leaves, stems and roots are also used to make local medication. Despite its increasing popularity, the plant species has remained largely underdeveloped in the Nigeria.
Daily Sun learnt that Avocado farms could produce a gross income of $8,000 to $15,000 per acre, and require five or six acre-feet of water per acre, per year. Indoor flowering and foliage plants can produce a gross $500,000 per acre and require about half the water avocado farms need.
Currently, avocado has not been produced for industrial purposes but rather for household consumption or sale at local markets in Nigeria. It is predominant in the southern and central parts of Nigeria, including Ondo, Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Cross River, Osun and Oyo, that have about 10 per cent of natural vegetation. If harnessed properly, avocado’s industrial potential can contribute immensely to furthering Nigeria’s economic growth through exportation.
Research shows that imports of fresh avocados to the European market have doubled from 2012 to 2016. This trend is as a result of the increased health consciousness of the consumers. With the increased demand for the Hass variety, Nigeria stands a chance of becoming an exporter like its Kenyan and South African counterparts.
Currently, Europe imports avocado from Peru, Chile, Mexico, and Kenya. The competition for the European market is fierce but the avocado industry experts expect a shortfall in production in the near future, as countries in Asia and the Middle East would begin to demand the product. This provides an opportunity for Nigeria to become an exporter of avocado.
Investigation by Daily Sun revealed that Kenya, the world’s sixth largest producer of avocados currently produces 200,000 metric tonnes (MT) of the fruits per year yet exports 16,000 metric tonnes. Israel, on the other hand, produces 100,000 metric tonnes of the fruits but exports 60 per cent of the total and South Africa currently exports more than half of its annual production of around 125,000 tonnes to Europe.
Meanwhile, Kenyan avocado exports have recorded a 10 percent increase annually for the last few years. Its exports to the European market have doubled between 2012 and 2017.
Today, the Avocado is grown primarily as a cash crop, almost in all types of climate conditions and weather. However, there is also less capital required for growing avocado fruit crop and a very good returns as good fruit production.
Most of avocado production in Nigeria is done in rural areas but there is a huge potential for commercial production for export and industries. They could both serve as a source of foreign exchange for the country. There would also be need for government buy-in to ensure that the policies and programs favor avocado production.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the Managing Director of Universal Quest Limited, an agribusiness company, Mr. Sotoye Anga, said there is huge potential in avocado. Currently, perishability is over 60 per cent as avocado produced in Nigeria is often wasted because there is no serious value addition.
He explained: “So the potential for avocado is what I will describe as wasted. With the kind of massive avocado production that so naturally happens in Nigeria, it is so unfortunate that we don’t pay attention to this treasure commodity God has naturally endowed our country with. When you drive through Eastern axis, you will see the volume of avocado produced across the East and the West, the trees are just plentiful in volume and quantity across board. We need to do something about it. We need to be strategic in planning for its massive production and export.
The truth is that we need to put national avocado policy that would deliberately commercialise the product. Today, what happens to avocado in Nigeria is when the season comes, the avocado is available and due for harvest, we just go and harvest it and then the market woman puts on their tray to sell. That is all we do with avocado. But there is a lot more to avocado.
We need to sit down as a government, as a people and deliberately craft a national commercialisation programme that will stimulate and commercialisation of the avocado industry that will look at the value chain and develop the entirety and enable people to start to produce them. In doing that, we will be able to create a lot more work for our people and that is the way to go.”
Meanwhile, Executive Director of GoGreen Africa Initiative, Ambassador Adeniyi Bunmi, said there is potential but it is so unfortunate that agric authority in Nigeria don’t understand what is called agribusiness, which is different from agriculture. According to him, agribusiness involves all of the value chain.
He said if Europe is taking Avocado from Kenya, the first assignment is that Nigeria’s authority should visit Kenya and have an high level meeting with Kenya and ask them how they were able to do it for people buying their Avocado from Europe.
He said Europe rejects Nigerian produce because there is no proper regulation, adding that even the government agencies put in charge of regulating some of the agric produce are not working, which is the major challenge facing farmers.
He submitted: “We humans ourselves, as Nigerians, are not faithful enough. When there is potential, we always misuse that opportunity. So when we get an opportunity and we misuse it, we might not get it back again. Europe is not taking anything that we produce seriously because we don’t follow the best agronomy procedure. We have a long way to go. We need to do more talk on agribusiness than agriculture if we want to start getting foreign exchange from our agric produce.”