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April 17, 2024

‘Improve Quality of Shea to Boost Export,’ Okonjo-Iweala Tasks Nigeria, Other African Countries 

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has emphasized the need for Nigeria and other African countries to enhance the quality of their shea exports.

Originating from the savannas of West Africa, the shea tree produces shea nuts, which are essential for producing shea butter—a vital source of income and medicinal properties for local communities.

Speaking during a virtual address at the 2024 Shea Annual Conference held in Abuja, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the significance of the shea value chain beyond mere farming and processing for butter.

She stressed that despite the potential benefits of shea production, many products fail to meet the required sanitary and phytosanitary measures for export, hindering the ability of countries to capitalize fully on this valuable commodity.

The Director-General shared insights into the WTO’s efforts to support countries like Nigeria in improving shea product exports. She recounted a success story involving a shea cooperative in Oyo State, which, with assistance from various agencies including the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), achieved international safety certification for exporting their shea butter products.

Speaking further, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala underscored the transformative power of trade, citing how the cooperative’s newfound ability to export resulted in increased incomes for women, enabling them to invest in education and other businesses. She reiterated the WTO’s commitment to using trade to raise living standards, create jobs, and promote sustainable development.

Nonye Ayeni, CEO of the NEPC, highlighted Nigeria’s significant role as a major global producer of shea. She outlined the country’s vast shea tree resources across several states and emphasized the potential economic benefits, including job creation, value addition, and women empowerment.

Ayeni also discussed the growing global market for shea products, noting the increasing demand from countries like India, Japan, and South Korea. With China, Italy, and the Netherlands leading in shea butter imports, Ayeni emphasized the importance of ensuring Nigeria’s shea products meet international standards to capitalize on these lucrative markets.

Furthermore, the discussions at the conference underscored the immense potential of shea production to drive economic growth and empower women in Nigeria and across Africa, highlighting the importance of improving quality standards and exploring opportunities for value addition along the shea value chain.

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