BusinessDay

FX potential seen in Nigeria’s $100m hibiscus industry

Nigeria can earn as much as $100 million from hibiscus export, experts say.

Nigeria literally sits on a hibiscus goldmine as the flower can be grown in virtually all the northern states of the country, according to the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) ABU Zaria.

The Association of Hibiscus Flower Exporters of Nigeria (AHFEN) estimates the value of the country’s hibiscus industry to be worth about $100million.

Hibiscus flower export holds great promise as an economic booster, especially in the era of diversification from oil, the association says.

Victor Iyama, president of the Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) describes hibiscus as one of the most important crops to the Nigerian economy.

“If we adequately harnessed the potential in hibiscus production, the country will boost its non-oil export because the market is huge,” Iyama says.

“Hibiscus flower farming is a business on the rise and the demand for it is increasing yearly. It can become a money-spinner when we address some of the issues limiting Nigeria from fully harnessing its potential,” he says.

Hibiscus production and processing are making big impacts in rural communities. Farmers growing hibiscus flowers are now increasing their farming areas to grow more of the crop as demand continues to rise and this is positively impacting their livelihood.

The extracts from hibiscus flowers and leaves have many uses and benefits, either medically or in industrial production.

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Its antihypertensive and food colouring properties have continued to attract the attention of food and beverage manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry for the commodity globally.

Dry hibiscus flower, locally known as Zobo, can be processed into hot and cold herbal beverages, jellies, and confectioneries, among others. The leaves are used extensively for animal fodder and fibre.

Medical experts say consumption of Zobo made from the leaves aids detoxification. It helps reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, as well as blood sugar levels. It also helps in darkening hair colour and slows aging as it contains anti-aging properties.

Also, it induces sleep and has antidepressant properties as well as helping in the treatment of flu.

All these numerous health properties have made it one of the key raw materials in the global confectioneries industry.

“My father takes hibiscus drink daily to control his blood pressure,” Bimbo Ademola, a buyer purchasing the flower at Ketu market in Lagos says.

“The hibiscus flower has been working effectively on my father since he started drinking it. His high blood pressure is now normal,” Ademola says.

Hibiscus tea is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamin C and several studies have found that the tea lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

The uses of the flower show the huge opportunity in the subsector for potential investors. With strong global population growth, particularly amongst children and young people, consumption of hibiscus products has been on the increase in recent years.

“A lot of people go into the exporting of hibiscus without actually knowing the nitty gritty of the business,” says Adedoyin Adesanya, director of operations, AgroEknor.

To address the issue of standards, experts say Nigeria needs to set up standard sanitary and phyto-sanitary labs, as well as increase processing to earn more foreign exchange through value-adding.