By now, it should be no surprise to you that agriculture is the most lucrative business sector in Nigeria. This has led to a huge boost in local and international investment, which has seen the agriculture industries potential increase exponentially.
If you’re still thinking about whether or not to invest in Nigerian agriculture, you should stop thinking and make a decision today. My advice to you is – don’t delay. The industry is so full of potential, and moving so quickly that you risk being left behind.
If you are already planning to start plantain farming in Nigeria, then you have made the right choice to help you turn your financial status around. With very little capital, plantain farming can help you make millions of Naira every year.
The secret to successful plantain farming is to ensure that you learn the basics, and master a few tricks of the trade. This is why you can start small and scale up to earn a lot from it.
The Plantain tree is a native of Asia, having been cultivated first in 500BC by South Indians. It has spread widely throughout the tropics, moving from Africa to the Caribbean and Latin America. At present though, Nigeria is a large producer of plantain. Nigeria produces more for local consumption in comparison to export.
You might be wondering why is plantain farming such a lucrative business? Plantain farming in Nigeria is so lucrative because plantain features heavily in the staple diet of most Nigerians. The few farmers who are successfully operating in this sector are making millions of Naira.
There is a large demand for plantain across the world and in Nigeria, but supply is struggling to meet demand. By following the simple steps given ahead, you will be well on your way to fulfilling this demand and providing yourself with a healthy income!
But before you start, it is important that you are aware of the health benefits of plantain.
Health benefits of plantain
1. Plantains are very reliable sources of starch and energy.
2. Plantains contain a high amount of dietary fibre, which helps ensure healthy bowels and reduces constipation.
3. Plantains have more vitamin C than bananas. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen- free radicals.
4. Plantains have more vitamin A than bananas. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A plays a vital role in the visual cycle, maintaining healthy mucus membranes, and enhancing skin complexion.
5. As in bananas, they too are rich sources of B-complex vitamins, particularly high in vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine). Pyridoxine is an important B-complex vitamin that has a beneficial role in the treatment of neuritis, anemia, and to decrease homocystine (one of the causative factors for coronary artery disease (CHD) and stroke episodes) levels in the body.
6. Plantains also contain folates, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin. Folates (folic acid) are essential for healthy pregnancy.
7. Plantains also provide adequate levels of minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. Magnesium is essential for bone strengthening and has a cardiac-protective role as well.
8. Plantains have more potassium than bananas. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure, countering negative effects of sodium.
9. Plantains are famed to be diuretic and can help prevent kidney and bladder problems.
10. Plantains ease the discomfort associated with the menstrual period.
How to start plantain farming in Nigeria
Step #1: Purchase suitable land to start your own plantain farm
Plantain needs the right kind of climate to grow- for it cannot survive in too hot or too cold environments. If you already have land you need to ensure that it meets these basic conditions.
Plantains grow best in conditions where the soil retains water, that’s why plantain plantations in Nigeria are irrigated. You may not have the means to carry out irrigation so you should consider soils that retain water, have a good humus layer and you should always improvise by incorporating animal manure to the soil to improve on the humus and texture of the soil to retain water. You can also make your own compost by using chicken manure to increase its fertility.
Step #2: Clearing the land
Once you have purchased your land, you will need to clear it.
Clearing of land includes removal of trees, brush, stumps and stones amongst other obstacles. This is necessary to increase the area of the land base for producing crop, or to make your land suitable for plantain farming operation.
Depending on your budget, available equipment and the location of your plantain farm, you can go for either manual or mechanised clearing.
Step #3: Prepping the land
Once the land for your plantain farm is cleared, you will need to take certain steps for making the land suitable for growing plantain. This is necessary for creating the right soil conditions for a healthy growth of these young plants, and to ensure that your plantain plantation is successful in the long run.
Land preparation should be done long before you start the process of transplantation of the plant suckers. Although this step may require significant efforts and investment, you cannot skip it, or you will have an unsuccessful harvest, which will set back your plans of owning a successful plantain farm.
Prepping the land will also enable you to structure and plan your farming operational processes and procedures.
The areas that you must consider are:
- The availability as well as the quality of water for irrigation that you have
- Mechanical actions that will need to be implemented and how they will be implemented
- Selection of land
- Any chemical requirements for improving the soil before transplantation
- Equipment and tools that will be required for the cultivation of plantain
- Labor and manpower requirements
- Leaching schedule
- Time schedule
- Financial requirements
- Hole preparation
Step #4: Purchasing Plantain Suckers
Plantains are propagated vegetatively, from corms, which are underground bulbs or rhizomes or from suckers, which are shoots that grow from the bud that is at the plant base.
Since the use of the entire corm is quite laborious, the more common method is to grow those using small corms. The mother plant makes three kinds of plantain suckers, namely sword suckers, maidenheads and water suckers.
Sword suckers come with a short pseudostem and have narrow leaves, similar to blades, along with a narrow base. When they mature, they have fruitful and healthy pseudostems.
Maidenheads come with a pseudostem that is large and does not produce any fruit; white water suckers have broad leaves with short pseudostems.
Water suckers do not have a strong attachment to the rhizome, and produce less fruit with weaker plants. They are less preferred in comparison to large sword suckers and maidenheads.
It is essential that you purchase suckers only from a farm that is reputable and trusted. There is no fixed price for these, a conventional sucker can cost anywhere around N50 to N100, while a hybrid will cost around N120 to N200. This price may again, vary depending on where you procure it.
Step #5: Planting
It is essential that before you begin your plantain plantation, you eliminate any grass or weed competition. To prevent any re-growing of weed, you can use mulching.
However, for turf grass, you will need to either use herbicides or go by the hoeing technique. If you are planning to plant for producing fruit, there should be a space of at least 8-10 feet in between. Irrigation needs to be applied at regular intervals to keep the soil moist. Ensure that there is no standing water since plantains are not tolerant to wet conditions.
Step #6: In-organic and organic fertilization
After planting, you will need to manure them using a combination of household waste, poultry manure and woodash for improving the growth and yield of plantains. It will also help to reduce the infestation by nematodes and borer weevils.
Organic manure helps maintain the temperature of the soil, conserve its moisture content and help regulate soil acidity. This will help you make the most of your efforts for plantain farming in Nigeria.
Step #7 Harvest
Plantain trees produce large bunches of heavy fruit, which may cause the tree to slump or droop. If you find that your plantain tree is struggling to stand up due to the weight, use string and bamboo poles to tie and prop the tree.
Fruits appear within 90 to 120 days after the tree flowers. Upon fruiting, plantains are typically ready for harvest within 6 to 8 months.
Step #8 Market
As a farmer or producer of plantain your ultimate aim is to secure buyers for your produce. In most instances this should be straight forward as there is currently a high demand for plantain.
Buyers can range from the mama in your local market to large companies/industries. However, since industries do not buy small quantities and require that plantains meet international standards, you will only gain access to this important market if your production is to industry specification, both in terms of quantity, quality and time.
Following these steps with dedication is how you successfully establish your own plantain farm in Nigeria, which is not only a source of great income, but also a way to help the economy of Nigeria.