Nigeria is said to be the largest producer of shea butter (popularly known as ori) and experts have predicted that Nigeria could make at least $10 billion from exports annually if the right support is given to the producers. Although Nigeria produces about 500,000 metric tons of shea butter annually, exports are less than 25% of that amount. Shea butter, used mainly for skin and hair health, can be used in its raw form or could be processed and used to produce different products.
Shea butter production is an industry occupied by mostly women, and it is said that, despite the opportunities available, traditional methods are still being used in extracting the butter from the nuts. This also leads to a reduction in quality produced. A regular user of the product echoed this sentiment saying that ‘it is challenging to get good quality shea butter, adding that it is expensive to obtain’. However, with innovation and the use of technology, higher volumes and consistent higher quality can be produced, resulting in better reward for labor. In addition, infrastructural deficits such as lack of roads, bad roads in most cases and lack of efficient transportation system across the country contribute to low output from those involved in the business.
There are opportunities for the government and private sector companies to collaborate to expand shea butter production and its contribution to the economy of the nation. The collaboration would involve the ministry of transportation and works, processing and packaging companies, financial houses, cosmetic companies, pharmaceutical companies, and so on. A handshake of these stakeholders will go a long way in creating enabling environment, providing the financing required for the women involved in shea butter business to acquire the right equipment and machinery such as kneaders or a hydraulic presses and nut crushers to replace the manual process, reduce hard labor brought about by the traditional methods; help them achieve consistent high quality products required for export and ultimately increase output.