Shea nuts are primarily grown in West and Central Africa in the semiarid Sahel, referred to as the "Shea Belt". Vitellaria paradoxa and Vitellaria nilotica are the mail varieties. Vitellaria paradoxa grows throughout the West African region and is exported in the largest volume. Vitellaria nilotica is grown primarily in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.
Shea nuts products, the solid fat (butter or stearin) and the liquid oil (olien), are ideal for the use as raw materials in cooking oil, margarine, cosmetics, soap, detergents and candles, but it found its primary market niche as a substitute for cocoa butter in the chocolate and confectionery industry.
Shea nuts tree grows widely and naturally in West Africa. They only begin to bear fruit after 20 years and do not reach maturity for 45 years. They may continue to produce nuts for up to 200 years after reaching maturity.
The long period taken to reach maturity has discourages plantation planting, although they are used as shades trees for other crops in certain dry areas.
The Shea nuts, which are embedded in a soft fruit, fall to the ground during harvesting period (typically June through August). They are then buried in pits which causes the pulp to ferment and disintegrate and produces enough heat to prevent germination. The Shea nuts are dried for a few days and are later shelled and winnowed, usually by hand. The kernels are dried further to reduce moisture content from about 40 percent to about 7 percent.
Demand and Supply
The other variety Vitellaria nilotica, has superior quality which is preferred by the cosmetic firms. Unfortunately this variety is primarily grown and processed in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, both currently states of civil unrest, and so it is generally unavailable on the market.
Shea butter is becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in cosmetics and soaps, especially in France and the US. Chocolate and confectionery products account for 95 percent of shea butter demand, with only 5 percent currently used for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Free Fatty Acids
(FFA) = < - 6%
The oil content is the most crucial element of the shea nuts as that component is an important ingredient in the composition of butter that goes into CBEs and other by products