Understanding dairy imports in Nigeria


Imported milk powder accounts for over 75 per cent of Nigeria’s dairy industry because domestic milk production remains low.

Although the dairy sector is the second largest in the country’s food and beverage industry, Nigerian dairy processors either import and repackage milk powders or reconstitute imported milk powders into liquid milk and other forms of dairy products.

“In terms of revenue, the dairy industry for 2013 was estimated at about 345 billion naira. “Of course, the industry is made of different segments. You have the milk, you have the infant formula, and you have the yoghurt, ice cream and butter. Of all of them, the milk market is the biggest,” Omowonuola Otun, dairy analyst at Agusto & Co told CNBC Africa.


Despite milk contributing about 61 per cent to the total industry revenue, there is still a wide gap between the production of local milk in Nigeria and demand which leads to a substantial amount of milk being imported.

“From the supply side, most of the supply comes from northern Nigeria where we have more cows and the natural factors that inhibit our local supply,” she added.

In 2013, domestic supply was estimated at 591,470 tonnes while demand for milk was estimated at 1.7 million tonnes, about 1.2 million tonnes in excess of the harvested milk.

“By the genetic makeup of our cows, they are at a disadvantage at dairying with very low production. Our average cow produces about 25 litres of milk per day. When you compare that to an average New Zealand cow of the same age, they produce about 40 litres per day,” she explained.

According to Otun, Nigeria is not doomed because there are things that can be done. She believes there are opportunities as research can be done and the local cow can be cross bred with a South African cow that yields better milk.

“That is just the genetic makeup of the cow so it’s not really about the feeding and such, although, those things come into it, our [Nigerian] cows genetic makeup do not encourage dairying.”

In conclusion, operators in the industry without a doubt enjoy strong product demand however, they are highly susceptible to the volatility in the price of raw milk powder, hostile movements in the exchange rates, poor infrastructure and irregularities in government policies.