Key stakeholders in the country’s coffee business have charged the federal government to pay more attention to coffee, —a cash crop that has the potential to generate over $2 billion in foreign exchange earnings for the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The move may not be unconnected with reports that Nigeria is not among the top 10 producers of coffee in Africa, which includes Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda.
Meanwhile, the coffee stakeholders insisted that the overlooked coffee industry in Nigeria has the potential to generate more than $2 billion yearly.
Speaking at the West Africa Specialty Coffee Association (WASCA) 2023 World Coffee and Tea Expo in Lagos recently, industry players said that with Nigeria’s dwindling fortune in oil, there was need for greater attention to be shifted to the non oil products, especially coffee, in a bid to shore up the country’s revenue drive.
Particularly, the coffee experts opined the need for strategic investments, modernised farming practices and value-added processing to harness the full economic benefits of the coffee industry are sacrosanct.
Indeed, they emphasised that unlocking the potential of Nigeria’s coffee sector not only promised substantial financial gains, but also, opened avenues for job creation and sustainable agricultural development.
With the right initiatives, Nigeria could position itself as a key player in the global coffee trade, contributing to economic growth and diversification, the coffee experts said.
The president of WASCA, Segun Lary-Lean, explained at the event that Nigeria’s coffee exports remain modest, with an annual output of under one million bags. In contrast, Ethiopia, the largest coffee exporter in Africa, is projected to produce a substantial 8.25 million, 60-kilogram bags, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
He said: “In terms of demand for coffee in Nigeria, last year, I think everything including tea, meat, and coffee, we had was about $36 million which is very poor.”
Lary-Lean added, “The type of coffee we produce in Nigeria is what the rest of the world is looking for. We should be doing $2 billion annually. It should be more than that but I don’t just want to overestimate.”
Lary-Lean pointed out that in many countries, mostly the Western countries, “coffee is like water, so you can imagine if you are talking about the demand for coffee, you’re talking about the water demand.”
He said, ‘’Some companies and brands generate between $20 billion to $30 billion from coffee.
“If you check out the American and Indonesian brands, they are doing so much on coffee. The demand is always there.”
According to him, in 2016, Brazil, boasting a population comparable to Nigeria’s 220 million, achieved a substantial $5.6 billion in earnings in the coffee business. Similarly, Colombia and Vietnam recorded $2.6 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively, during the same period.
Contrastingly, Kenya experienced a 17 per cent increase in coffee earnings to reach $254.2 million in the 2013/14 crop season.
The WASCA boss stated, “The United States imports coffee from Africa. The demand is always there. And Uganda is making a lot from coffee. Kenya too is making a lot from coffee. We can also do the same.”
The chairman, National Coffee and Tea Association of Nigeria, Oyo State chapter, Salihu Imam, reminisced on the importance of coffee as a key cash crop.
Imam said: “Coffee is the second most traded/valuable of all commodities and first in Agricultural commodities in the world. Tea is also a sought-after crop in the World.”
Imam revealed that Oyo State was poised to go into massive production of coffee from the next planting season. “We are poised to churn out and plant 2 million seeds/seedlings in the next 2-3 seasons.”
‘’The state is in collaboration with the Cocoa Research Institute, the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, and the West African Speciality Coffee Association.’’
He urged banks to significantly sponsor coffee production, ensuring an ample supply for both local industries and export trade.
Nigeria covers an area of 923,769 square kilometres (356,669 sqm) and with a population of over 230 million. The country boasts of fertile land to cultivate coffee.
He however admonished that Nigeria should immediately look inwards and properly fund agriculture – an ancient and reliable industry.
Imam advised, “The federal government should declare a state of emergency in agriculture and especially direct CBN to ensure commercial Banks give out soft loans of not more than two per cent annual interest to farmers to boost agricultural commodities production.
“Real farmers need effective and sustained funding of their activities through cheap funds from the Financial Institutions.”