Nigeria’s climate and soils provide ideal conditions for cultivating highly sought-after cooking spices for domestic sales and lucrative export markets. Despite strong global demand and prices for spices like ginger, chillies, turmeric, and more, Nigeria currently relies heavily on imports to meet internal needs. But the winds of change are blowing across spice fields in the central and western regions of Africa’s largest economy.
Smallholder farmers in states like Kaduna, Benue, and Oyo are now ramping up commercial spice production, tapping into surging interest from exporters, food processors, and everyday Nigerian cooks seeking healthier, safer seasoning options.
Read on to discover the immense income potential of planting, growing, harvesting, and selling the top Nigerian cooking spices set to deliver newfound financial freedom to farmers and spice entrepreneurs across the country.
Ginger and Turmeric: Ancient Roots, Modern Profits
Ginger and turmeric provide the foundation for a wide array of Nigerian dishes, inciting aromatic and flavourful warmth through iconic meals like jollof rice, stews, and bean porridge.
Beyond the kitchen, they also have a long history as valued medicinal remedies in Nigerian culture. Today, an unprecedented global health and wellness movement focused on natural products has sparked major international demand from dietary supplement producers.
Prices for both ginger and turmeric have surged by over 50% since 2019, hitting all-time highs as the COVID-19 pandemic spread worldwide. With India, China, and other Asian producers facing climate pressures and disease issues, experts predict supply shortfalls compared to burgeoning demand over at least the next 5 years.
For Nigerian growers, that market imbalance represents life-changing income prospects…
Leveraging Ginger’s Massive Worldwide Demand
Ginger now trades at premium prices across European, Asia-Pacific, and North American markets, eager for imports. Global sales are projected to reach $5.2 billion USD annually by 2027.
And Nigeria already shows early promise as an upstart source for foreign buyers. In 2021, farmers harvested 22,000 metric tonnes of ginger valued at nearly ₦16 billion.
But less than 5% made it to overseas markets. The country still imported almost double that amount to satisfy internal requirements. With sufficient growth in large-scale commercial farming focused on exports, Nigeria could completely eliminate ginger imports while capturing major revenues abroad.
So what does it take to grow ginger for profit successfully?
- Rich, well-draining soil with high organic matter content
- Consistent moisture (rainfall or irrigation)
- Partial shade, especially in earlier growth stages
- Altitudes between 150 and 1200 m are ideal.
Varieties: Most common export types grown in Nigeria
- Yellow Wonder (often simply called “Yellow Ginger”): very high yield and extended shelf life
- Abua, a spicy flavour profile preferred by local markets
- Kene: impressively large roots
Key Growing and Harvesting Practices:
- Plant rhizome cuttings just below the soil surface at the start of the rainy season.
- Space plants 12 inches apart, with 30-inch rows.
- Control weeds diligently in the early stages.
- Harvest between 8 and 10 months after planting.
- The best yields come from well-maintained 2nd and 3rd year crops.
Nigerian ginger currently sells from ₦500 to ₦1200 per kilogramme domestically, depending greatly on quality grade.
Meanwhile, international prices can easily fetch $1600 USD or more per tonne for unprocessed products. The value also increases substantially for processed extracts, essential oils, and similar ginger by-products.
With possible hauls of 25+ metric tonnes per cultivated hectare, farmers stand to reap first-year profits between ₦2.5 million and ₦10 million or greater. Of course, soil vitality, production scale, efficient processing and storage, and export marketing all play key roles in optimising financial outcomes.
Turmeric offers unique year-round harvest advantages.
While ginger and turmeric plants may look rather similar to those of amateur growers, there are some important differences in terms of climate preferences, harvesting schedules, and market pricing. These distinctions mean cultivating both spices for an extended income season.
Turmeric thrives in hot and humid lowlands up to 600m altitude. It needs at least 8 months of warm temperatures with generous moisture. The plant also continues growing after ginger has already finished a seasonal growth cycle and gone dormant.
That means, with proper timing between plantings, two full turmeric harvests are possible in suitable Nigerian regions compared to ginger’s single longer crop.
And recent turmeric sales fetched up to ₦2000 per kilogramme, out-earning ginger. That makes it a smart pairing for larger operations. A 3-hectare farm could reasonably expect to produce 10 metric tonnes of turmeric valued at around $20 million per year.
Chilli Peppers: Red Hot Profits
Another essential element animating Nigerian cuisine comes from the captivating heat and red-orange colours of chilli peppers.
Beyond their central role in traditional sauces, stews, skewers, and condiments, international demand for chillies continues to rise faster than production in key regions like India and China. That spells prime opportunity.
But be warned: all chillies are not created equal when profit is the end game. Savvy commercial growers carefully select specific varieties based on actual market preferences for heat level, size, colour, and flavour rather than just planting random seeds.
Top High-Value Nigerian Chilli Variety Picks:
Madagazi, “African Bird’s Eye,” is tiny but extremely hot, earning premium export prices for processing into hot sauces or powders.
Sombo: medium hotness, but very meaty walls, and popular locally for fresh use.
Tatashe, the most common larger chilli, sells well across Nigeria.
Ose-Naga: Unique chocolate-brown skins and intense pungency loved by hot sauce producers
Shombo: bright red, 5-7 cm long fruits perfect for stuffing or stewing
Here are key tips for maximising yields and quality:
- Hot climate, at least 25°C day and 15°C night temps
- Choose fast-draining or raised beds.
- Needs at least 6 hours of direct sunshine daily.
- Shelter from heavy winds
Ideal Harvesting Stage:
Pick chillies based on their fruit colour—deep, vibrant red. Continued ripening after picking preserves quality.
Production Scale Economics:
- Each chilli plant yields roughly 0.5–2 kg annually.
- Raised beds, spacing plants 20cm apart, hit 6 tonnes per hectare.
- One hectare equals up to ₦7.5 million in yearly revenue.
Sesame: Ancient Seed, Soaring Demand
While sesame seeds may not seem like an obvious “spice” at first glance, these tiny nutritional powerhouses are essential to beloved Nigerian spice blends and pastes like yaji as well as oil production.
And the country finds itself well behind demand. Current local sesame output hovers around 500,000 metric tonnes, while domestic requirements call for 700,000 ns. That deficit will only widen as investor dollars pour into Nigerian oil processing facilities aiming to produce tahini paste and both refined and cold-pressed sesame cooking oils for sale across Africa and abroad.
Yet another massive financial opportunity for farmers ready to capitalise on this cash crop.
Why Global Buyers Covet Nigerian Sesame
Most sesame seeds sold internationally come from Ethiopia, India, Sudan, and a few other major producers. But Nigerian sesame is slowly gaining recognition for its superior quality traits.
- Very high oil content—up to 57%
- Sweet, nutty flavour
- White is preferred for tahini.
- Low moisture content means better storage ability.
For these reasons, buyers offer 10–20% higher prices for unhulled Nigerian sesame exports compared to other African sources.
And yields here also outpace most other countries, with prime varieties averaging 1 to 1.5 metric tonnes per cultivated hectare.
At current pricing between ₦500 and ₦800 per kilogramme, a well-run one-hectare farm can deliver ₦1.5–2 million in annual revenues from sesame alone.
Spice Up Your Wallet: The Time to Plant is Now
Hopefully, this overview gets your mind racing with the possibilities (and flavours) of launching your own Nigerian spice farming enterprise or investing in an upstart commercial operation.
With global demand rising faster than production for virtually all major cooking spices and Nigeria’s excellent climate, soils, and affordability advantages, huge income potential awaits.
The above examples represent just a sample of the most lucrative spices to consider for those seeking new income streams. But everything from cassia cinnamon and nutmeg to cumin seeds and cloves presents attractive opportunities for aspiring Nigerian agricultural entrepreneurs.
Now is the hour to secure your financial freedom by sowing quality spice plantings built to deliver bountiful long-term returns.