Pineapples are prized for their succulent interiors and the sweet juice they contain. They are among the more widely consumed fruits in Nigeria, a country that’s still short of its optimal supply of vitamin-rich foods.
In fact, Nigeria leads Africa in the production of pineapples. It is also the eight biggest cultivator of the crop in the world, with over 1.6 million tonnes plucked out of the country’s fields in 2017 alone. That’s about 6% of pineapples grown on the planet.
Pineapple production in Nigeria has grown considerably over the last two decades, with output doubling within the period. The growth has been driven by local demand, which hasn’t let up over the years. A rapidly expanding population in want of good nutrition has created this opportunity for fruit farmers.
Given the popularity of the crop in Nigeria, it might come as a surprise to many that it isn’t indigenous to Nigeria. Pineapples were first grown in South America, and didn’t get introduced to Nigeria and other African countries until the Spaniards and other colonial powers shipped it into the continent. But it has gained in popularity with locales across Africa, and is now common in many parts of the region.
Most of Nigeria’s pineapple cultivation happens in nine states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Cross River, Imo, and Ondo. These states are favoured production centers because the climate and soils are suitable for the crop’s cultivation.
It usually takes pineapples between 15 months and 2 years to mature. Farmers can achieve earlier harvests if they are growing their fruit on fertile soil or applying the right sort of fertilizer and cultivation practices. The ideal soil for this crop is one that’s well drained and on an even plain.
Although Nigeria is among the world’s top producers of pineapples, it doesn’t feature at the same level with respect to exports. The global market for the crop was estimated to be worth $2.1 billion in 2018. A huge chunk of that figure is contributed by countries in Europe and South America. The United States is the biggest net importer of the fruit; Germany, Japan, and France are also prominent net consumers.
Most of Nigeria’s pineapples are consumed domestically. While local farmers would like to profit from the huge international market for the product, there’s a concern that the variety cultivated by most of them might not fare well against improved strains traded by other countries.
However, there’s always room for Nigeria to take up space among pineapple exporting countries. With targeted investment and trainings for local producers, it could begin reaping from the rising global demand for the fruit.
Featured image source: Self