Profit-making idea: Pineapple processing in West Africa
This article is an excerpt from the 2022 Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) flagship Annual Trends and Outlook Report
Pineapple accounts for about 20% of the world’s tropical fruit production and is the second most cultivated tropical fruit after banana. Globally, the fresh pineapple industry has grown about 6% per year since 2000. In 2019, West Africa earned about US$66.9 million from fresh pineapple exports to the European Union. Nigeria is the region’s largest producer, followed by Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo.
There is increasing demand for fresh pineapple and pineapple products in regional and international markets. There is also a growing market for certified processed foods. Development partners are involved with the pineapple sector in Benin, and processors can tap into this network to upgrade their processing units, develop business networks that include all value-chain actors, get trained and certified, and as a result, seize market opportunities.
Global pineapple markets shifted to the variety MD2 in the late 1990s and early 2000s: this variety is preferred for export because of its long shelf life. Exports from West Africa almost collapsed because growers there produced sweeter but much more perishable varieties (e.g., Smooth Cayenne, Baronne de Rothschild). The MD2 variety accounted for roughly 90% of all pineapples grown in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2014, but traditional varieties have regained some popularity in local and regional markets. For instance, Benin produces mostly the Pain de Sucre (Sugarloaf) variety, which is popular in West Africa. Processed pineapple products include juice, canned pulp, fruit jellies, marmalades, fruit purees and pastes, and dried pineapple. For these products, juice extraction appears to be the main type of processing.
Pineapple, like most other fruit, is highly perishable, and processing is one way to extend its shelf life. Processing is carried out at the artisanal, semi-industrial, and industrial scales. Artisanal processors represent the largest group, but their processing capacity is low. Artisanal and semi-industrial processors are often family-run businesses or village-level cooperatives that buy fresh pineapple directly from farmers or market vendors and target local markets and occasionally regional markets. Industrial-scale processors often produce below their capacity (60% below capacity) due to a lack of raw material. They target domestic, regional, and international markets.
Regardless of the scale of processing, a key challenge is the lack of fresh product supply throughout the year. Other challenges include the lack of availability of varieties suitable for processing, high production costs and low productivity, a lack of well-organised cooperatives and access to loans, limited market information, and a lack of processing and packaging equipment as well as of refrigerated storage and transportation. Artisanal and semi-industrial processors are usually not certified, which limits their access to regional and international markets.
There are some current efforts toward product certification in West Africa, but there is still a lot to do in terms of policy and quality standards. Most countries have no dedicated food safety agency that provides oversight to the pineapple processing industry. In Benin, for instance, only a few processing companies have Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) or International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certifications. Pain de Sucre pineapple from the Allada Plateau in Benin became the first protected geographical indication at the African Intellectual Property Organisation in 2021. This designation is a step in the right direction, but more policy involvement and support along the value chain is required.