Explainer: Why Nigeria’s SAPZ should explore avocado farming

Avocado farming in Nigeria is yet to see a boost as many people are still planting pear on a subsistence basis. Only a few are now cultivating it as a cash crop for large-scale commercial purposes, even though it has a readily available market worldwide.

The fruit, a naturally nutrient-dense food that contains high vitamins and minerals, is also known as “green gold” for its high prices, and because it can generate foreign exchange in large volumes annually.

However, government’s efforts to boost agricultural production and productivity through enhancing market linkages and industrialisation are mostly directed towards the development of commodities, such as cocoa, rice and maize, with little or no emphasis on under-explored plant species such as avocado.

The recently launched Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) programme in Nigeria focuses on, cocoa, rice, maize, beef, dairy livestock, tomato, cassava, ginger, groundnuts, sesame oil, poultry, fisheries, and soybean across Imo, Cross River, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Oyo states, and the Federal Capital Territory.

In states like Cross River and Imo especially, which are known to be major producing states for the avocado crop, the SAPZ programme will be kick-starting the first leg of its initiative. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the crops that will be focused on in Cross River in terms of value chain development include cocoa, rice, and cassava. It will focus on beef and dairy livestock in Imo.

The initiative, which involves siting an agriculture hub in choice locations across the country, may be the push that the avocado value chain needs to be turned around.

According to the Avocado Society of Nigeria, Nigeria can make over N80 billion annually from Hass avocado export, the avocado variety with dark green bumpy skin, if done commercially.

“Eating foods high in good fats (unsaturated), like fresh avocados, in place of foods high in saturated fats has been shown to help reduce risk factors for disease and promote overall health,” it said on its website.

Read also: Flooding: Nigeria gets IFAD’s $5m for dry season farming

According to AVOSON, Hass avocados mature between 2-3 years, have a long life span of more than 50 years, and have a guaranteed market.

“It is an investment like no other. With only N500,000 investment per acre, you can be getting a minimum of N3 million per year,” it said.

Avocados require minimal maintenance. It is a low-risk venture that requires low-cost input, low maintenance, and less attention.

Studies show that avocado has other health benefits including improving digestion, decreasing the risk of depression, and protecting against cancer. Avocado pear prevents hair loss and promotes smooth skin.

In 2020, former President Olusegun Obasanjo diversified into avocado farming as part of efforts to set an example for unemployed youths on a hunt for white-collar jobs at the detriment of agribusiness and agricultural practice, and to contribute to the country’s targets to be the largest producer of the avocado crop in Africa by 2030.

At the time, Obasanjo disclosed that the country possessed all the qualities and capacities required to take over the East African countries in avocado crop planting and farming by 2030.

Till this time, however, not very much has been done in that regard, experts have said.

Avocado oil as well as the pulp from it is used in the cosmetic industry, pharmaceutical companies, and therapeutic activities.

Analysts say that Nigeria can compete in the global avocado trade as there is a growing demand for the commodity from major importers like Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and America.

“One-third of an avocado provides 6g of healthy fats and 3g of fiber,” AVOSON said on its website.