Beer, wine and spirits are not simply alcoholic beverages they are more: they are prides of nations; they carry the names, cultures and history of families, people and nations to the corners of the earth. This is evident in Vodka from Russia and Poland, Amarula from South Africa, Mount Gay from Barbados, Scotch from Scotland, Bailey from Northern Ireland, Champagne from France, Guinness from Ireland, Tequila from Mexico, and more.
Most of these beverages and brands reflect the geography and skills of the people of the countries of origin as beverages are from plants, knowledge and skills local to these people. Examples are Amarula from fruit of the African Marula tree of South Africa; Mount Gay from Sugarcane plantation during slavery; Tequila from blue agave plant from the city of Tequila in Mexico; Champagne from the graves of Champagne in France and more.
Individuals, communities and nations have successfully developed their local beverages, branded them and sell to the world. They have built large industries and created jobs for millions of people globally. There is so much the people of Nigeria should learn from them.
In Nigeria, the sweet story of National pride, people or family history attached to alcoholic beverages doesn’t exist. In the Nigerian society, Beer, wine or spirits are nothing more than mere alcoholic drink to be consumed. The beer consumed in the country are brewed locally because the Government of Nigerian placed an import ban on beer to protect local industry in 2003. They are brewed mainly by Nigerian Brewery and two foreign companies (Guinness or Diagio and SabMiller) mostly with barley and hops that have to be imported as they don’t grow in Nigeria.
Almost all the wine consumed in the country (valued at about $200 million) are imported as domestic production is grossly underdeveloped and the amount entering formal marketing channels is insignificant. The spirits market in the country is dominated by locally produced foreign type of spirits with imports making about 25 % of the market share (about $500 million).
Nigeria’s alcoholic beverage industry, worth more than $6.5 billion is dominated by foreign countries like Ireland, South Africa, France, Spain; foreign names like Guinness, Johnny Walker, Heineken, Champagne, Vodka, Hennessy; and foreign plants like hops, barley, grape, agrave. Nigerian traditional wines and spirits like Palm wine and Kaikai (also known as Oguro and Ogogoro) are also widely produced and consumed but are not bottled or branded and do not pass through formal channel. Though Nigeria has its own unique traditional alcoholic beverages made from indigenous plants, Nigerian government or private sector have made no significant effort to develop the beverages or invest in the struggling local alcoholic beverage industry in the country.
Burukutu, a local beer brewed from Sorghum and millet in the middle belt of Nigeria; Oguro (Palm wine), a local wine gotten from palm tree in the middle belt and south; and Ogogoro, a local spirit distilled from fermented palm wine in the south-south, are Nigerian tradition beverages that has been part of the Nigerian society long before the first white man set foot on Nigerian soil, but sadly, the beverages are still in their ancient form as no significant attempt has been made to improve them or increase their value.
Burukutu, Oguro and Ogororo are unique drinks with distinct flavour that Nigerians should have taken advantage of, as they are from plants not common in Europe and America. Just as Mexico’s tequila and South African Amarula, Nigeria could have developed Burukutu, Oguro or Ogoro into a fine beverage sold worldwide.
The Nigeria Institute for Oil Research (NIFOR) in Benin after many years of research have not been able to develop a sustainable method to keep Palm wine in a bottle for many years like grape wine. This is partly because palm oil remains the primary focus of the institute, while Palm wine is secondary. There should be researches focused on palm wine. Researchers and scientists should develop a technology that makes it possible to bottle and store palm wine for decades without it losing its organoleptic qualities.
Nigeria is one of the world largest producer of Sorghum and millet and Nigerian Brewery has started taking advantage of this by combining sorghum to barley in their brewing process because it is cheaper and can be sources locally. Companies should take advantage of this and partners with scientists and farmers to develop good seeds and a modern process for brewing fine quality beer from millet and sorghum.
This is a call to the Nigerian government, entrepreneurs, scientists and technologists in the country to invest in the country’s local beverage industry as it has the potential to create millions of jobs through increased Millet, Sorghum and Palm farming, and establishment of wine and distillery factories. In the United State for instance, the alcoholic beverage industry is a major contributor to the economy, responsible for over $475 billion in total U.S. economic activity in 2014, generating $110 billion in wages and nearly 4.6 million jobs for U.S. workers. Nigeria may not be able to generate hundreds of billion dollar in economic activities or wages, or generate millions of jobs, but it is certain that growing and developing the countries local alcoholic beverage industry will greatly improve the economy and create hundreds of thousands of new job in the country.