List of Cash Crops in Nigeria

One of the most important sectors of the Nigerian economy is the Agricultural sector.

Currently, over 70% of the country’s labour force is found in this sector. These are mostly workers in small and medium scale agricultural farms.

Basically, the products in this sector are divided into two: Food crops and Cash crops. Cash crops are also known as industrial or export crops.

33% of the land area in Nigeria is used for cultivation of crops and two-thirds of the local crop production is contributed by small farms.

These farmers use simple production techniques and produce food crops which are either for home consumption or for sale.

However, in this post, we will be focusing on cash crops and their economic value.

Types of Cash Crops in Nigeria

list of cash crops in nigeria

Root cash crops

These include the likes of cocoyam, cassava, yams and sweet potatoes

Tree crops

These include cocoa, rubber and oil Palm. The main cash crops of the country are cocoa and oil palm.

Let’s take a look at these tree crops


Currently, cocoa is the leading agricultural export of the country and Nigeria is the third largest exporter of Cocoa, after Ivory Coast and Ghana and the fourth largest producer, after Ivory Coast and Ghana.

In the 1950s and 1960s, cocoa was a major foreign exchange earner for the country and by 1970 Nigeria had grown to become the second largest producer of cocoa in the world.

Shortly after, the country’s production dwindled as the Nigerian Government decided to focus on the oil sector.

By 2010, cocoa was responsible for only 0.3% of agricultural GDP and between 2000 and 2010, the average production of cocoa was 389,272 tonnes per year. This was better than the figure from 1999 when the country produced a meagre 170,000 tonnes.

The history of cocoa farming can be traced to the 1870s when the planting of cocoa seeds was attempted in Bonny and Calabar but the area proved not suitable for cultivation.

In 1880, a cocoa farm was established in Lagos followed by farms in Agege and Ota. The information on the viability of cocoa farming in these parts of the country led to its spread to other parts of Yoruba land.

As a result, farmers in places like Ibadan and Abeokuta experimented with cocoa planting in uncultivated forests in these regions.

Some of the areas that proved productive include Ilesha; Okeigbo and Ondo Town both in Ondo State; Ife and Gbongan in Osun State and Ekiti.

At this time, there were two main varieties of cocoa planted in Nigeria, the Amelonado cacao which was imported from the upper Amazon river Basin in Brazil and the heterogeneous strain from Trinidad. The Amelonado pod is green but turns yellow when ripe while the Trinidad variety is red.

Initially, the marketing of cocoa was carried out via a monopsony with the supervision of the Government installed marketing boards. The method was changed in the 1980s based on recommendation from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as the marketing boards had proven to be ineffective. Subsequently, the Nigerian government dissolved the marketing board in 1986 and liberalized cocoa marketing and trade.

Some of the current problems with cocoa farming include aging trees and farms, low yields, inconsistent production patterns, disease incidence, pest attack and little agricultural mechanization.

Currently, the major cocoa producing states in the country include Ondo, Cross River, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Ekiti, Delta, Osun and Oyo.

Oil Palm

West Africa is the original source of oil palm. However, the crop can also be cultivated in Asia, North America, and South America.

Currently, Nigeria palm oil production accounts for 7% of total global output. The crop is cultivated in the South-Central and South-Eastern parts of the country.

The major oil palm producing states are Enugu, Imo, Ondo, Edo, Cross River, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Rivers, Anambra, Oyo, Abia, Edo and Ogun State.

The palm fruit contains palm oil (edible vegetable oil) and the chaff (the palm fruit flesh) can be used to sustain fire while the kernel can be processed into palm kernel oil which is also edible and can be used for different applications like making of soap, especially bar soaps which is used in washing locally in Nigeria and some African countries.

The kernel cake gotten from kernel processing is used as a feed for dairy cattle because of its high-protein content. The kernel cake can also be used to generate electricity by burning it in boilers.

Other uses of oil palm uses include cleaning agent, in baked goods, cosmetics, confectionery, shampoo, toothpaste, and washing detergents.


In 2017, Nigeria was named the second largest producer of sorghum in the world after the United States. The country produced 6.4m metric tonnes that year.

One of the major local industrial consumers of sorghum is the Nigerian Breweries Plc NB as it is a valuable ingredient in the brewery industry


Cotton is another important cash crop unfortunately cotton farming has received very little attention over the last few years and its contribution to the country’s GDP has dropped from 25% to 4%.

It has been said that the country is currently losing about $6.5 billion in cotton export revenue annually.


Rubber used to be the fourth largest foreign exchange earner but activities have since declined as the country has focused more on crude oil. Also, the decline has been attributable to the lack of modern equipment necessary for converting the raw material into value added products of international standard.

As a result of this, the country is said to be losing $6 billion in annual revenue from the international market.

Rubber is grown in Edo, Delta, Ondo, Ogun, Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo, Rivers, Ebonyi and Bayelsa states

Nigeria is also one of the top producers of cash crops like millet, sweet potato, cashew nuts and groundnut.

In summary, we’ve listed the top cash crop exports in the country below:

  1. Cocoa: $238.1 million (0.6%)
  2. Oil seeds: $180.9 million (0.4%)
  3. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $102.4 million (0.3%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $76.1 million (0.2%)
  5. Rubber, rubber articles: $55.4 million (0.1%)

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