Saturday, October 15, 2011

Product Profile: Shea Butter

Description: Shea butter is a slightly yellowish or ivory colored natural fat extracted from the seed of the African shea tree by crushing and boiling. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer and salve. Shea nuts are primarily grown in West and Central Africa in the semi-arid Sahel,referred to by traders as the "Shea Belt". Vitellaria paradoxa and Vitellaria nilotica are the two main varieties. Vitellaria paradoxa is exported in the largest volume and grows throughout the West African region.
Vitellaria nilotica is produced primarily in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. Shea nut products, the solid fat (butter or
stearin) and the liquid oil (olein), are ideal for use as raw materials in cooking oil, margarine, cosmetics, soap, detergents and candles, but it has found its primary market niche as a substitute for cocoa butter in the chocolate and confectionery industry.

Harvest: Shea nut trees grow widely and naturally in West Africa. They only begin to bear fruit after about 20 years and do not reach maturity for 45 years. They may continue to produce nuts for up to 200 years after reaching maturity.  The nuts, which are embedded in a soft fruit, fall to the ground during the harvesting period (typically June through August). In most African countries, the main harvest lasts from October to March and the interim harvest from May to August They are then buried in pits which cause the pulp to ferment and disintegrate and produce enough heat to prevent germination. The nuts are dried for a few days and are later shelled and winnowed, usually by hand. The kernels are dried further to reduce moisture content from about 40 percent to about 7 percent.

Locations: Sheanut grows in the wild across the Sudan-Sahelian region of Africa. The major producing countries are: Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana, Uganda, Mali, Burkina Faso and Central African Republic. Nigeria is currently the leading producer of Sheanut in the world and in 2004 Nigeria's production of the commodity was 414,000 metric tonnes with export value of US$61.04 million (Source: FAO).  Shea butter is produced in Kwara State at Ode-Giwa in the Asa Local Government are and also in Minna area of Niger state in Nigeria. Other states include kogi, Oyo and Ogun state.
Shea butter is graded based on a number of factors. For some buyers, It could be based on the percentage of the expected vital constituents present in the sample while some other buyers use the level of refining and contamination present as their criteria. Based on the percentage of the expected vital constituents present, Shea butter can be graded as shown in the table below.
Based on the level of refining done and contamination present, shea butter is now classified into five grades: A (raw or unrefined, extracted using water), B (refined), C (highly refined and extracted with solvents such as hexane), D (lowest uncontaminated grade), E (with contaminants). Commercial grades are A, B, C. The color of raw (grade A) butter ranges from cream (like whipped butter) to grayish yellow, and it has a nutty aroma which is removed in the other grades. Grade C is pure white. Grade A retains the most natural vitamins, especially vitamin A and vitamin E, which are partially lost in the other grades.

Traditionally, African shea butter is used for cooking oil, as a water proofing wax, for hairdressing and for candle-making; and also as an ingredient of medicinal ointments.
Industrially, shea butter is used in cosmetics production, such as moisturizer creams and emulsion, and hair conditioners for dry and brittle hair. It is also used by soap makers, typically in small amounts (5-7% of the oils in the recipe), because of its property of leaving a small amount of oil in the soap. Shea butter is also used as an ingredient in chocolate fillings.
Medicinally, Shea butter is used as a base for medicinal ointments, and has been claimed to have anti-inflammatory properties emollient and humectants. Shea butter has been claimed to be effective treatment for the following conditions: fading scars, eczema, burns, rashes, severely dry skin, dark spots, skin discolorations, chapped lips, stretchmarks, wrinkles, and in lessening the irritation of psoriasis.
New Commercial Uses
·         Shea based adhesives, resins, and composites
·         Shea Plastics and compounding
·         Shea conversion into chemicals, solvents, and fuels
·         Nutritional value and characterization Total utilization of shea materials for new commercial uses

Export market: Shea butter is becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in cosmetics and soaps, especially in France and the US. Major destinations for Nigeria's Sheanut are the EU and Japan while for the shea butter are Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Export Price: Buyers in Europe and the United States are quote FOB prices ranging from USD2,500-4,000/MT depending on the quality and quantity of product ordered) for unrefined shea butter from Abidjan, Accra or Lagos packed in 20 pound dark plastic sacks or 50 kilo dark plastic containers or coated steel drums.

Local price: The local market price of shea butter per MT ranges from NGN300, 000.00 to NGN500, 000.00 to deliver it to Lagos during the season.

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