Shea butter boosts W. Africa business, by Kwaku Sakyi-Addo

Monday, June 27, 2005

The shea nut trees grow easily in the savannah belt that separates the Sahara desert from the verdant, tropical coast of West Africa. They only start to bear fruit after 20 years, reach maturity after 45, but can go on producing for two centuries.

Several countries in the region export 60,000 to 80,000 metric tonnes of shea nuts each year, but the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization says that could increase ten fold.

“Shea nuts could be big business for West Africa. The cosmetic and personal care industry in America is becoming more and more interested in it because consumers have discovered its magic,” said Peter Lovett, a shea nut consultant, who advises the West Africa Trade Hub (WATH).

WATH, a U.S.-funded outfit with a regional office in Ghana, supports West African entrepreneurs to export their products to U.S. markets under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Blue Mont’s Bhat says the advantage of being in northern Ghana, where the company has 16 permanent collection units, is that there is no shortage of nuts and good labor is plentiful.

“We can always get the cream of the people, who really want to work and make a living for themselves,” he said. “Pickers can earn tens of dollars a day” during the peak rainy season.

The world market price per metric ton of raw nuts is $190, crude butter sells for $450 dollars and refined butter for $900.
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Source: Reuters