By Joy Baba-Yesufu
President, West Africa Specialty Coffee Association (WASCA), Larry Segun-Lean, has decried Nigeria’s dwindling coffee and tea exports, a situation he described as extremely worrisome.
He said despite the nation’s large economy and huge population, the sector generated less than $29 million in the last one year, a very poor number especially as other African countries with less GDP and population, do at least three times that amount on export alone.
Speaking at this year’s two-day World Coffee and Tea Expo held at the LCCI exhibition centre in Lagos, he said their goal was to unite coffee and tea enthusiasts, professionals and industry leaders as well as transform the industry into a sustainable future.
He added that their focus this year is to advocate for a circular economy and see how the industry can be well structured for global export and become a revenue hub for forex.
He said Nigeria as well as industry stakeholders must go beyond lip service to making coffee a primary product for export and revenue generation as this will stem the tide of the nation’s currency fluctuation once more products are selling in the international market.
“Coffee is a regenerative commodity as it can employ hundreds of people and its consumption is beneficial. Currently, we have about 120 million African farmers engaged in coffee farming and if we can have a quarter of this number in Nigeria alone, imagine the production capacity we would have and the FX we can generate. The U.S, a well-known coffee-loving country, gets 80 per cent of its coffee from Africa but none from Nigeria. This must change.”
He recalled that a few years ago, farmers in Nigeria grew coffee beans for export purposes but all that has changed as the country is only interested in exporting crude oil to the detriment of other key agricultural produce. “We have to revive coffee farming in Nigeria especially for export purposes.”
Segun-Lean said they have started exporting to Canada which has a growing number of Nigerians and they intend to include other countries next year. He said farmers must be given major incentives and taught ways to grow species and best practices for global export. He said he hopes the seminar will provide the needed and necessary education to kick-start this necessary growth.
One of the speakers at the expo, chief executive, Goshen Marbles and National Vice President, the Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), S.T Kuti-George, said despite the harsh economy, many opportunities still abound in the industry.
He said roughly 40 per cent of the world’s population consume coffee daily and it is a huge market. “In the U.S, the number is even higher with about 60 per cent of residents drinking coffee daily and 40 per cent drinking up to five cups in a day. Nigeria’s coffee ranks top among coffees in the world and has huge demand, so there is an opportunity to grow this sector for export properly.”
He said the government and relevant stakeholders have to do more because the country’s production of 117, 000 metric tonnes yearly is extremely poor and not even sufficient for local consumption, talk less of exports. He urged coffee farmers to unite and create a coffee hub where they can share facilities, land, equipment and so on. He asked the government to put in funding in this sector as it is an untapped goldmine that can bring in huge FX.