Last week, I engaged you on a discourse on Sesame Seeds export that promises a goldmine for those who dare to try.
This week, I bring you yet another commodity with the potential to put you in the league of nouveau riche. And it is no other than the familiar bitter kola.
As its name implies, bitter kola is a seed or nut that has a bitter and later sweet taste in the mouth when eaten. It is produced by a flowering plant that is commonly grown in the forest region of West Africa.
The seed is oval and with a brown coat or covering which when removed unveils a white monocotyledon that has over the years proven to possess medicinal properties that can cure several ailments.
Its botanical name is garcinia kola but in local parlance, it is known as akilu in Igbo, orogbo in Yoruba and mijigoro in Hausa. Bitter kola is highly sought after because it is believed to have purgative, anti-parasitic and antimicrobial properties.
Unlike other crops, bitter kola seed does not germinate easily because of what researchers refer to as seed coat and physiological dormancy.
This dormancy is believed to be caused by the chemical content of the seed. This creates a lot of difficulty in making nurseries for the seedling. For instance, Yakubu et. al, 2014 posit that the seed coat dormancy could be reduced by removing the seed coat before sowing while the physiological dormancy could be remedied by soaking in water for 72 hours before planting in airtight polythene bag and constantly watering it.
This would give it early germination of about two weeks. However, most of the bitter kola trees grow in the wild and produce large quantities of biter kola in Nigeria and other West African countries.
As most of the bitter kola seeds are grown in the rural areas. Your best bet is to locate local suppliers who would supply you with high quality seeds.
Alternatively, you can go to the local markets to buy good seeds.
Mrs. Chinyere Nwokeke, a researcher at the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) finds that biter kola possesses antibacterial, detoxification, and cleansing properties that could be efficacious in the treatment of opportunistic infections associated with HIV and AIDS.
According to her, bitter kola contains a chemical called saponin that cleanses and enhances the functions of the liver and gall bladder.
Professor Maurice Iwu once suggested that biter kola could be used to prevent Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Researchers have also found that bitter kola has anti-malaria properties. They also found that frequent taking of kola nut could cure impotence in men.
It could also be used to reduce eye pressure, which causes glaucoma. It is also used in treating coughs and arthritis, among so many other ailments.
Bitter kola seeds are in great demand in the pharmaceutical, food processing and beer brewing industries where they are used in producing drugs and energy drinks.
Countries such as Germany, United States, Britain, Japan, India and France have wide markets for biter kola. One can easily find buyers in these countries and earn fabulous foreign exchange from sales.
You can find buyers in the Internet and connect with them. Or you consult those already in the business. Better still join a trade association dealing in bitter kola export. From there you learn the secrets of success, which they may not give you if you are not a member.
This is one of the most important aspects of the business since there is no business without buyers. After getting your contacts, you send proposals to them. If they accept your proposal, you then proceed to package the seeds for export.
Bitter kola can be supplied to customers in two forms – fresh or dried. However, many buyers prefer the dried form. The seeds should be dried in such fashion as to ensure that the colour and taste are not lost in the process.
There are three ways by which you can achieve this. You can dry it in the sun. This is the method most farmers in the villages use but most buyers do not like sun-dried seeds. They believe they have lost some natural properties in the process.
The more acceptable method is the natural drying. This involves spreading the seeds for about five days on a clean surface in a large room with optimum temperature devoid of sunlight or moisture.
This method ensures that the colour and chemical content of the seeds are preserved. The third method is drying with machines designed for it. The seeds must be dried for export.
Remember that the seeds for export must be of high quality. Ensure that you remove all stones, dust, sand, dirt, particles and other unwanted materials such as nylon, papers and leaves. Avoid adulteration.
Ensure that you package your seeds in such a way that they will not lose quality. Do not use air-tight bags; they must be airy to avoid spoilage.
Having been satisfied that you have met international standard, you then proceed to export the bitter kola seeds to your clients using any of the international private courier companies.
Your means of transportation could be by cargo airliner or shipping line, whichever is most appropriate.
The fare may also be a factor in your choice of transport. Then you check the export duties to be paid on the goods and the agencies responsible for certification and clearance of the goods for export.
Of course, without necessary certification and clearance from agencies such as the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Nigerian Export Promotion Council NEPC), the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), exports could be rejected by the importing country as has happened when the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) banned beans from Nigeria till June 2016. Such a scenario is better imagined than experienced.
Attend seminars where you meet professionals and experts who speak on the subject and easier ways of doing business.
Seminars also offer you the opportunity to network among stakeholders, business moguls and Nigerians in the Diaspora to boost your business. Or consult me.
Bitter kola is highly sought after locally and in foreign countries because of its health and commercial benefits to both individuals and companies alike.
Those who engage in bitter kola export business attest to the fact that it is very lucrative. For every export sale, one can make as much as 100 per cent profit or more in hard currency. One thing going for biter kola business is that it does not need huge capital or rocket science to go into it.
Take a bold step. Cheers!