Kenaf – The sustainable cotton substitute

Nigeria remains prominent for her variety of agricultural resources that, when properly harnessed, can serve as a stimulus to the processing industries and a sustainable economic growth. However, with the increasing global environmental challenges, there is a growing call to prioritise the bio-economy in order to ensure the green growth of the nation. Cotton is the major fiber crop in Nigeria, but the continuous environmental issues associated with its production and the general economic issues of the cotton industry in the past decades have presented a diversification opportunity for close alternatives, such as Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus). These alternatives offer higher potential for improved yield, environmental improvement and sustained economic growth.

Tipped to save the country billions of dollars annually, the Kenaf value chain offers lucrative investment prospects for both local and foreign investors who seek profit maximization, environmental maintenance, social inclusion and real change in societal welfare. Compared to the Cotton value chain in Nigeria, Kenaf presents a more environmentally friendly, socially acceptable, profitable and sustainable crop to grow, process, manufacture and market in Nigeria and the sub-region.

Although research says South-East Asia was the center of domestication, new data has shown that Nigeria might be the center of origin for kenaf. Nigeria is one of the leading producers of Kenaf fibre – 4th in Africa and the 13th globally with an official estimate of 1,460 tonnes of total kenaf fibre output in 2020. The Nigerian climate and soil are suitable for the production of the crop in more than 26 states each year. And, the domestic market alone (with a population of more than 200 million people), provides the needed demand to absorb the entire Kenaf products in the country.

LINKS commissioned this study, to assess the opportunities in using kenaf as an alternative to cotton and the potentials of combining Kenaf with cotton alongside economic, social and environmental considerations. This analysis focuses on fieldwork conducted in ten (10) states: the LINKS focal states of Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, as well as Katsina, Zamfara, Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Benue, and Kogi.

The study explores the entire Kenaf value chain in Nigeria, examining the nature of the markets, the investment entry points and the cost-benefits analysis of the actors – producers, processors, and aggregators. Some of our findings have been outlined below:

  • Although investment prospects of the Kenaf are vast and attractive, production presents the best Return on Turnover. However, to maximise the full potential of the chain, it is vital to adopt improved production and processing technologies and organize farmers and industrialists into efficient value-added chains.
  • The defining bridge in the entire value chain is the processing unit which requires sound investments to stimulate accelerated growth in Kenaf markets and the industry.
  • Manufacturing is a massive element in this sector and is observed to possess the potential to unlock unlimited benefits of the crop through value additions in products, by-products, and waste management.

The report also provides a realistic assessment of the business cases to decide what is possible and impossible to achieve proper planning vis-à-vis the prevailing policy environment in Nigeria.

With several varieties of hybrid seeds currently produced domestically that can ensure 2 to 3 production cycles in a year, and vast hectares of land allocated by the Federal/State governments and individual farmers, Nigeria is setting itself as the next big producer of Kenaf in the world. Thus, with the right policy development and R&D into the management and promotion of the crop, it is safe to say that the future is Kenaf.

Read the full report here

COVID- 19 Response

Project implementation in these unprecedented times is challenging for all of us in Nigeria, but it presents new opportunities as well. As part of LINKS response to the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, we have taken a number of initiatives