How value can be added to a number of exportable primary commodities had extensively been discussed in my previous articles. With particular reference to agricultural commodities, Cassava had featured most prominently; likewise, Yam/ Flour/ Poundo-Yam, Rice, Pumpkin and Bitter Leaves, ground Pepper, Melon (Egusi), African or Sweet Bush Mango (Ogbono), Cray Fish, Palm Oil and Kernel, Fruits and Fruit-juice, etc.
We may recall that sometime in 2015, the European Union (EU) banned some of Nigeria’s food crop export commodities like beans, sesame seeds, melon seeds, dried fish and meat, peanut chips, and palm oil from entering European markets, for the reason that these products contained a high level of unauthorized pesticides. The good news is that the ban is due to be lifted in June 2022. This means that Nigeria’s exports will be allowed again to be exported to the EU countries.
The renewal is seen as a welcome development because our country needs to urgently expand its export and FOREX revenue base. The long-time interval covering the suspension was deemed necessary to enable our country to improve on the previously poor quality, storage, and packaging of her commodities that are competing in the international market.
It is important to note, however, that the situation does not affect countries outside the EU. Nigerian exports have never been banned from entering American, Asian, and other African countries’ markets,
Ahead of the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), it will be useful to bring to limelight the export potentials of, not only the food products, but also of some of Nigeria’s competitive manufactured products, ranging from light goods such as Alcoholic beverages (Wine, Beer, and Gin), Malt/ Carbonated drinks, Cosmetics/ Body Creams, Soaps, Detergents and Chemicals (insecticides, deodorants, and fertilizers), Textile/ Clothing/ Shoe products, and Plastics; to heavy equipment such as Electrical/ICT, Mechanical, Electronic/and Steel products such as wires/cables, telephone handsets, radios, televisions, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, ships, airplanes, computers, agricultural-tractors and earth-moving equipment, etc.; the essence is to guide and assist potential investors, and at the same time contribute to the economic development of Nigeria.
It may be necessary also to provide value-addition and market information on Handicrafts, Talking Drums, Calabash Carvings, Wood Carvings, Beads, Pottery, Metal Carvings, Hand-woven textiles, Raffia products; particularly on how these old-fashioned traditional products could be resuscitated and finely repackaged for mass exportation to the US, Europe, and other emerging global markets.
Production of Alcoholic beverages (Wine, Gin, and Beer) from the Palm Value-Chain:
In Nigeria, the dominant variety of palm trees that thrive in the Oil Palm, found mainly in the southeast. The Oil Palm value-chain consists of Palm Oil/ Kernel/ Cake/ Wine/ Gin/ Beercomponents. The investment and export prospects of Palm Oil and Kernel have already been discussed in previous write-ups. In the present context, attention would be focused on the Wine, Gin, and Beer components.
In the Ibeju-Lekki rural communities, Lagos, located in the thick swampy undergrowth forest belt, the variety of palm trees that grow in that territory are the palmyra, date palms, and coconut palms whose sap also yield palm wine, gin, and beer.
Palm wine is an alcoholic drink created from the sap or juice of various types of palm trees such as oil palm, palmyra, date palms, and coconut palm trees.
Throughout Nigeria, palm wine, most commonly referred to in local names as “palmy”, “tombo liquor”, “mmanyangwo”, “nkwuenu”, and “nkwuocha”. In some parts of Cameroon, it is known as “emu” or “matango”. In parts of southern Ghana, distilled palm wine is called “akpeteshior burukutu”. In Togo and Benin, it is called “sodabe”, while in Tunisia it is called “lagmi”. In coastal parts of Kenya, it is known as “mnazi” while in India it is called “toddy”.
The oil palm tree grows wild in forests, although the shorter and modern species are now being cultivated in some state government palm reserves across the length and breadth of south-south and southeast of Nigeria. Commercial production of palm wine by smallholders and individuals may also promote the cultivation and preservation of the short and high-yielding varieties.
The sap or juice is extracted from the cut flower of the palm tree and collected by a tapper. A container is fastened to the flower stump to collect the sap. The white liquid that initially collects tends to be very sweet and non-alcoholic before it ferments. Palm wine is collected, fermented, and stored in local Calabashes.
Essential Tools for Tapping & Collecting Palm wine
Among the tools the locals use for tapping palm wine is a rope (known as “ete” in Igbo land) which is tightly curled around the tapper’s waist when climbing. Apart from the rope, the tapper also climbs the palm tree using a locally fabricated ladder which is simply a bamboo or wooden plank with grooves carved into it or protrusions grafted onto it to act as steps. The tapper also goes with a cutlass, a knife, and a jerry-can. A plastic container such as a jerry-can is often used to collect the sap since it is relatively easier to handle when going up and down the palm tree.
The palm wine tapper climbs up a palm tree using the gloves on the bamboo attached to the tree.
When at the top of the tree, a rope, which has to be strong and in good condition, serves as a support for the tapper while he is collecting the palm wine. When the tapper climbs to the top of the palm tree, he cuts some of its palm branches to expose the tissue and then uses the knife to create a hole in it.
A hollow bamboo or empty pipe is often used to direct the sap into the jerry-can which is fastened securely on the tree.
The container is left for days so that it can collect enough sap or juice. When enough sap has been collected, the tapper takes it back to his shed where it is distilled or sold immediately
Room for improvement
However, this method of tapping Palm wine is outdated and can be improved by phasing out the tall trees and planting modern species of palm seeds that could yield shorter trees. This way, there would not be any need to climb the trees, as the tapper can simply reach out to the flower stump at the head of the trunk to collect the sap with ease. There have been several reported cases of fatal accidents resulting from climbing very high Palm trees; any little slip could result in a dangerous fall, which might result in death.