TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

African Apparel Makers Desperate to see AGOA III Passed Urgently

Thursday, 22 April 2004

Source: New Vision (Kampala)

After experimenting on Shea Nut Butter for over four years in northern Uganda, Lira-based oil company, Guru Nanak Oil Mills is set to explore the world market.

According to Guru's executive director, Surjit Singh, the firm is targeting the American markets, whose doors have been opened by the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA).

"There is a big market for Shea Nut Butter in the U.S.A because many natural cosmetics manufacturers prefer African Shea oil. Therefore, this project should be supported for the country to get foreign exchange, Singh said.

Last year, Guru Nanak produced 20,000kgs of Shea Nut Butter, which was sold to the local market, as a food flavour and a raw material for cosmetics manufacturers.

People in Lira, Katakwi, Pader, Gulu, Nebbi, Arua and Soroti never knew Shea Nut to be an important crop that could even be processed for export.

However, after sensitisation, the local communities are beginning to consider it a treasure which must be conserved and grown for economic benefits.

The peasants use a crude method of producing the oil. They gather and dry the nuts then roast and boil them during distillation.

"This method is time wasting and produces poor quality butter," said Singh.

Singh describes the Shea tree as a 'green gift' from God to mankind due to the so many uses it has.

In addition to being a significant food flavour, Shea Nut butter is used as a raw material in the leather industry.

"It makes leather more supple and protects it from drying and cracking," he said.

After the extraction of butter, farmers can use the residue (Shea cake) as an organic fertiliser.

"It is environmentally friendly and good for organic crop production," Singh said, adding that it also repels termites in gardens.

In terms of food values, Shea Butter is rich in Vitamin A and E and is good for the skin.

Guru Nanak which also manufacturers sunflower oil, was the first company to set up a factory for processing Shea nuts in Lira.

Singh, who is a technical consultant to the Uganda Oil Seeds Producers and Processors Association, said Uganda can earn up to $1,000,000 (over sh1.8b) a year from the Shea butter export.

He says one kilogramme of Shea Butter costs $60 in USA.

He appealed to the Government to help local investors in northern Uganda improve the oil quality through use of better processing techniques to meet the required international standards.

 

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