This report reveals some truths I have tried to point out to other stakeholders in Nigeria’s Agribusiness industry, in the past.
For instance, about 2 years ago, | attended an international agribusiness conference on Lagos’s Victoria Island, where companies from different parts of the world came together to show what they had to offer, exchange ideas and explore potential areas of collaboration with counterparts from across Nigeria.
Farm business owners running enterprises of all sizes, from micro operators to large scale commercial agro enterprises, were present.
Dansa, a subsidiary of Dangote Group PLC, was one of the indigenous large scale brands that was present, and whose stands I visited that day.
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My main interest was in their displayed sample of Smooth Cayenne pineapple variety, which the lady I spoke with told me they had devoted large hectares of land to cultivating in Cross Rivers state.
It so happens, that this Guardian newspaper report mentions the same company, as having invested 45m USD in their above mentioned production and processing plant.
That is not a small amount of money, and it goes without saying that the problem of low patronage highlighted by the newspaper, with reference to the Nigerian Smooth Cayenne variety must give producers like Dansa, and others, cause for serious concern.
This is especially true when one considers the fact that the Sugar Loaf pineapple variety imported from next door Benin Republic, continues to enjoy good patronage from the same market that the Smooth Cayenne variety producers are complaining is not buying enough from them!
Efforts by the Guardian to narrow down, via questions posed to stakeholders and experts interviewed in the Nigerian agribusiness industry, to the root causes of the poor sales performance of local pineapple producers yielded the following responses:
- Price difference: Pineapples grown in Nigeria are priced significantly high, compared to others flooding the market from neighboring markets. Examples:
- Small sized locally produced sells for N250 upwards
- Average sized imported sells for N100 to N150
- Bigger sized imported sells for N150 to N200
Looking at the above profile of prices, and considering the limited purchasing power of majority in the Nigerian market, their tendency to buy more of the imported variety can be understood.
- Availability: Current local production of pineapples in the Nigerian market is low, and due to its bulk use from production in industrial enterprises, limited amounts remain that locals can buy and eat.
- Preference: Nigerians supposedly prefer foreign pineapples, especially the one imported from Benin Republic due to its taste.
I think this last point, is linked to the first one.
One of the experts interviewed – Ambassador Sola Bunmi Adeniyi – Executive Director of a Non-Profit outfit, GoGreen Africa Initiative, argued that availability, and NOT preference for imported varieties was the reason for the low selling performance of Smooth Cayenne recorded.
I’m not too sure I agree totally with that point of view. It is true that a lot of what is produced currently in Nigeria, is being used for what Guardian’s report correctly describes as “alcoholic, beverages and food industry production purposes.
However, the fact remains that if one had to choose (and I say this as one who has shuttled the Lagos-Cotonou axis countless times and lived on both sides), people openly express preference for the Cotonou sourced Sugar Loaf variety.
When asked why, most tell me it tastes better, even though it is smaller in size.
It so happens that having tasted both varieties, at least those I found during my travels, I also prefer the Cotonou pineapple for its taste.
I cannot say for sure, if the taste of the local variety that I have sampled was in any way affected by the nature of soil in which it was farmed, or the treatment it was subjected to. What I do know is that it tended not to be as pleasing to taste, in terms of sweetness I could enjoy, as the one from Cotonou.
Whether or not this is something people who eat pineapples in other parts of the country, also experience, I cannot say.
If this issue raised is checked across other states and found to be valid, can anything be done to improve the taste performance of Smooth Cayenne grown here, to match that from Benin?
If not, what are the implications for growth prospects of this variety?
In light of the above issues, I cannot help wondering how Nigeria decided to choose Smooth Cayenne. Did we not explore the possibility of growing Sugar Loaf? Or are there restrictions placed on growing a variety from other markets?
These are some of the questions I believe need careful consideration by decision makers and stakeholders, if progress is to be made on this front.