‘Mangoes are out’

I often say  we (Nigerians) are an unserious people. Though I blurt jokingly most times, the severity of this statement remains intact. Earlier this week, on Monday, I received a message on my WhatsApp from an unrelenting, serial pusher of broadcasts which I usually would not bother reading, but this one caught my attention, luckily. It reads:

“Despite all that has been happening in Nigeria, the fight between APC and PDP, Army and Boko Haram, Buhari and Jonathan, EFCC, subsidy, fuel scarcity, increase in dollar and decrease of naira, unemployment, inflation and hardship, I have good news for you…. Mango is out!!”

It was a widely shared joke, as I happened to see this same post on social media with some of the funniest and imaginative comments — as usual. It wasn’t funny to me, not anymore, as soon as the message sank. “Mango is out!”

My mind raced back to the roots of my upbringing that chastised the habit of waste and early social science definition of Economics in respect to scarce resources.

Mango is almost free in Nigeria and a lot of it goes to waste as people who live or pass through Gboko or some other rural community in Benue can attest to. Mango eventually becomes scarce in Nigeria and Mango in packed juice form is expensive as a result of rising cost of imports amid the foreign exchange scarcity.

“Mangoes are out and what about that?”
‘No jokes,’ Nigeria is the ninth largest Mango producer in the world followed by the Philippines.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has no place even in the top 30 in terms of exporting the same commodity, and not even top 10 in Africa. Precisely, Africa exported mangoes valued at about $178.8 million with the following countries topping the trade 1. Côte d’Ivoire: $38.7 million; 2. Egypt: $32.7 million; 3. Ghana: $25.9 million; 4. South Africa: $21.3 million; 5. Senegal: $17.9 million; 6. Mali: $11.1 million; 7. Burkina Faso: $10.7 million; 8. Kenya: $10.4 million; 9. Gambia: $4 million; 10. Cameroon: $2.2 million. To make matters worse, no other country in Africa is on the Top 10 list or close to being at par with Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Philippines that is a rank beneath us in terms of production, exports about $91 million worth of mangoes and Peru which is only about 1/5th of Nigeria’s population exports $194.2 million worth of mangoes — more than Africa’s combined exports — and the country is not even a top 10 producer!

In Abuja, One (1) big fresh Mango is sold for about N100 (30¢) but a pack of imported Stute Mango Juice made from concentrates retails for about N1200 (almost $4). In other places, people only sell mangoes in baskets and beg customers to buy.

Mango to a Nigerian can be likened to the biblical Manna from Heaven. One does not even have to harvest it, it just falls and our part is to pick and eat, saving none for tomorrow. Beyond mangoes, this is the tale for other fruits such as the Citrus family, which Nigeria is also among the top 10 producers of.

But it is not all doom and gloom, certain Nigerians in the private sector are not just aware of these opportunities but have gone further to harness them. The Agriculture subsidiary of Tony Elumelu’s Transcorp Plc invested about N1 billion in the Ben Fruit plant in Benue State which can produce about 26,500 metric tonnes per annum of fruit concentrates (Mango, Orange and Pineapple).

Affiong Williiam’s Reel Fruit is another inspiring story. The small start-up ventured into the production of dried fruits with decent packaging, initially targeting the middle class, health conscious demographic in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve but is now available to every demography across the country.

Nothing more can drive my point home than the story of Seun and Seyi Abolaji who started the Wilson’s Juice company with just N2000 (about $5 at the time) and turned squeezing lemons into a million dollar business.

The point is — Nigerians have shown that success is possible against all the odds and with little resources. It is up to government to remove the odds, among which include infrastructure, access to power, storage and credit facilities and policy push. Whenever the mangoes come out again, we should get all we can out of them and must get them out!

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