It is time fruits took centre stage in Nigeria’s economy as we seek to replace the $30bn we will be losing from the collapse of the global oil market

By Ayo Akinfe

(1) Nobody needs to be told that Nigeria can no longer rely on crude oil for survival, at least for the foreseeable future. I am surprised that a national debate is not raging now about how we replace our petroleum revenue. We are certainly going to have to at one stage

(2) Unlike many other African nations, Nigeria is fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources which if processed and exported could generate substantial foreign exchange. Fruit is one area where we are sitting on a potential gold mine as nothing stops the sector from matching the $30bn or so Nigeria was realising from the sale of crude oil pre-coronavirus

(3) Here are stats we should be working on now. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of agbalumo, the fifth largest producer of plantains, the sixth largest producer of papaya, the seventh largest producer of pineapples and the tenth largest mango producer. All of these can be processed into a variety of products which Nigeria should be supplying the world market with

(4) Let us start off with fruit juices. Do you know that the global fruit and vegetable juice market is expected to be worth $257bn by 2025. Now, we have ask ourselves what Nigeria’s annual share of this $257bn will be. I would settle for 20%, which is about $50bn

(5) There are a whole range of uses we can put these fruits to. We can process them into tinned fruit, make wines and spirits from them, manufacture animal feed and of course just sell into the fresh fruit market

(6) Already, I understand that a group of Nigerians have come up with a plan to produce an agbalumo wine. There is no reason why Nigeria should not manufacture a range of fruit alcoholic beverages sold worldwide in retail outlets and off-licences

(7) For every fruit we grow, we should have a four-pronged approach. Produce fresh fruit, manufacture a fruit juice, brew an alcoholic beverage and come up with a tinned product. I fail to see how this will not generate at least $30bn a year

(8) Given that fruits are tropical products, we have an inbuilt advantage here. Temperate countries cannot grow fruits like us and we also have the advantage of having a large number of hands for the labour-intensive process of fruit picking

(9) As a starting point, we need to gather data on what our fruit output is. We can then talk of expanding output and of course, move on to the main issue of processing, packaging and marketing. We should have a special brand of products. At the moment we should be thinking of the most catchy name we can come up with

(10) What I have in mind is a private sector fruit producer and processor that is vertically integrated right from farmer to brewery. Maybe if we called it say Azikiwe Enterprises and it produced unique drinks which we could name maybe Sango, Aboki, Izom, Nna, etc, we could be on to a winner here