The Nigerian agricultural sector which employs two-thirds of the entire labor force is the largest sector of the economy. The sector contributed about 25.2 % (N10.50 trillion) to the nation’s GDP as of 2019. Despite this status as being the largest employer of labor, it is estimated that Nigeria has lost USD 10 billion in annual export opportunities from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa, and cotton. (The Agricultural Attache Network )

Nigeria exports agricultural products like cocoa beans, cashew nuts in shell, frozen shrimps, ginger, fish, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic invertebrates, oilseed, grain, seed, and fruits to the Netherlands.

Nigeria’s Major Exported Agricultural Products

  • Sesame seeds

Nigeria is the third-largest producer of sesame seeds in the world after India and China and the largest in Africa with a production capacity in excess of 1 500,000 metric tonnes as of 2017. According to the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, about 95% of sesame output in Nigeria is exported. In Nigeria, sesame seeds are grown mostly in Taraba, Benue, Jigawa, and Nasarawa states. Total Nigeria’s export value of sesame of N89 billion in 2018 was more than twice the value in 2017 of N41.5 billion. China remains the largest importer of Nigeria’s sesame seeds with purchases of N26.7 billion worth of sesame seeds from Nigeria in 2018 compared to N9.6 billion purchased in 2017. (www.pwc.com/ng)

  • Cashew nuts


According to the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), Nigeria ranks as the sixth-largest producer of cashew nuts in the world with an average production capacity of 120,000 metric tons per annum. Cashew is grown in about 19 states of the country comprising: Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Kogi, Niger, Nassarawa, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Taraba, and Kwara. The export value of cashew nuts in Q2 2018 was N37.9 billion, representing 47.5% of the combined export value of cashew nuts for 2017 and 2018. The export value of cashew nuts was the highest among all agriculture products exported in Q2 2018. The top export destinations of Nigerian cashew nuts are Asian countries. Vietnam and India remained the largest market for Nigerian cashew nuts.

  • Cocoa – fermented and raw cocoa


West Africa accounts for about 70% of global cocoa output. Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana combined, account for more than half of the world’s total production. Nigeria is the third largest cocoa producer in Africa. Data estimates from Statista, a statistics online portal, put the country’s total cocoa production at 245,000 tonnes in 2016/2017 which is less than one-third of Ghana’s production level.

The major export destinations of Nigeria’s fermented cocoa beans are the Netherlands, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Belgium. In 2018, the Netherlands imported N30.3 billion worth of fermented cocoa beans from Nigeria, which surpassed the combined two-year export value of the other top four importers. The significant cocoa demand from the Netherlands is driven by the boom in that country’s chocolate market fueled by the increased popularity of specialty chocolates.

  • Frozen shrimps and prawns


The total export value of frozen shrimps and prawns declined by 61.6% to N5.6 billion in 2018 from N14.6 billion in 2017. Though the value of shrimps and prawns exported to the Netherlands decreased by 55.4% to N3.8 billion in 2018 from N8.6 billion in 2017, the country remains the largest market for Nigeria’s frozen shrimps and prawns with over N12 billion worth of frozen shrimps and prawns exported to the Netherlands in the last two years. The total value of frozen shrimps and prawns exported to Belgium, Nigeria’s second-largest importer was N0.8 billion and 2.9 billion in 2018 and 2017 respectively.

Challenges of Agricultural Export In Nigeria

  • Logistic challenges at the ports

Nigeria’s two major ports, Apapa and Tin Can ports, are responsible for processing the bulk of trading activities in the country, but infrastructure and logistics challenges continue to impact export, as well as import activities. A survey conducted in 2018 showed that Nigeria loses about $10 billion on 2 non-oil exports due to gridlock at the port. The gridlock has led to a refusal by buyers to renew contracts and in dire cases, outright cancellation of contractual agreements. The Nigerian Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) alleged that in March 2019, there was an incidence of delayed shipment of 50,000 tons of cashew valued at $300 million due to gridlock in accessing the ports. Other agricultural products for export are affected too. The consequences of the gridlock include escalation in haulage costs, reduction in export prices due to degradation in the quality of products while on extended transit to the port and a decline in foreign exchange accruable from non-oil exports.

  • Inadequate storage facilities and poor distribution network

The lack of adequate modern storage facilities for agricultural produce has led to significant post-harvest losses on account of produce perishability. The Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO) puts Nigeria’s post3 harvest losses at $9 billion annually. In the same vein, the poor distribution network of farm produce from the major food belts is equally hampering the quality and quantity of agricultural exports in the country.

  • Poor quality of agricultural products for exports

The quality of agricultural products from Nigeria is relatively poor. This is due to poor handling of agricultural products (pre-and post-harvest period), diseases and pests attacks on crops, and excessive use of pesticides for preservation purposes. With growing globalization and increasing emphasis on the quality of agricultural products, which is benchmarked on international food safety procedures, it has become imperative for the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) to put in place appropriate risk management measures and provide required guarantees on agricultural products leaving the shores of the country so as to avoid a sour relationship with trading partners.

  • Low-value addition to agricultural products

Lack of value-addition to agricultural goods exported has resulted in a significant loss in earnings accruable to the country. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Nigeria’s value-added per capita in agriculture has risen by less than 1% annually, over the last 2 decades.



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