The hibiscus flower, popularly known in Nigeria as zobo, is adjudged one of the country’s biggest export crops. It is currently enjoying a vast increase in production since the lifting of its exportation ban, as many farmers are busy engaging in massive production despite poor government intervention.
Recall that the commodity was banned by the Mexican government sometime in 2017 following a pest infestation found in some of the consignments shipped from Nigeria to Mexico. The ban left many farmers and exporters technically out of business, causing job losses in the agriculture value chain.
It is on record that since the ban took effect, Nigeria lost significant revenue, as many exporters and farmers suffered heavy financial losses due to the number of rejected consignments from Nigeria to other countries, which led to a decrease in the number of farmers producing the commodity.
This happened at a time when the hibiscus flower in export markets held great promise, especially for an economy that sought to diversify from oil.
Economic indices showed that the ban by Mexico, which imported about 85 percent of Nigeria’s hibiscus, rendered the sector ineffective and unattractive to investors and farmers.
However, after a series of interventions by the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), exportation of the commodity resumed after the ban was lifted in 2022. It was gathered that after the lift of the ban, Nigeria discovered that it stands to benefit a lot considering the huge investment made in the sector through its value chain trend, as well as foreign exchange (forex) earnings.
Similarly, after the lift of the ban, hibiscus farmers became deeply involved in the production of the flower, with Jigawa State being the highest producer in the country.
It was gathered that at present, one tonne of hibiscus is now selling for N1.3m to N1.7m. The current price of the commodity has made it very endearing to farmers, to the extent that many of them have abandoned other crops.
Statistics have shown that small-scale farmers and producers in rural areas constitute about 75 percent of the hibiscus cultivating population in the country.
A Kano-based hibiscus farmer, Najiú Isa, told Daily Trust that after the ban, farmers discovered that hibiscus had numerous uses due to its diversity in usage. As a result, there had been an increase in demand for the crop from European, Asian, and North American clients, and internal demand became the order of the day in most markets across the producing states, with Kano serving as the hub for its business.
Another farmer, Usman Abdullahi, stated that after the ban, the country witnessed a swift shift in the hibiscus industry as the commodity’s economic importance became glaring to many farmers. He noted that it became one of the key raw materials demanded in the global confectionery industry, adding that the crop’s many uses, ranging from medical to industrial, made it a very profitable commodity. Abdulkarim Sulaiman is an exporter of hibiscus, and according to him, even though the era of banning Nigeria from exporting hibiscus to Mexico is over, if care is not taken, the business will still face challenges because the demand is becoming overwhelming, and farmers lack the needed support from the government. He added that hibiscus farmers really need government intervention to enable them to remain in business.
It was based on this trend that the largest hibiscus fumigation center in Africa was established in Kano State to strengthen its production in line with best practices for exportation. The center is owned by an indigenous company, Mumin Foods and Drugs Limited.
The Chairman of Mumin Foods and Drugs Limited, Alhaji Abdullahi Usman, told Daily Trust on Sunday that his company was one of the few businesses that were currently championing the revolution in hibiscus exportation in the country, ensuring strong adherence to global best practices. He also revealed that, though excelling on its own, the company was able to gather momentum without access to any form of loans to conduct and commit huge resources to get it right.