Plantain farming business is one very lucrative agribusiness you can venture into today if you understand the steps on how to go about it. One good fact about the plantain farming is that maintenance and cultivation is very easy, unlike other cash crops that require so much time and money. It is also a low capital venture that does well in almost every Nigerian soil.
How profitable is plantain farming business in Nigeria?
Plantain is one of the most consumed foods in the tropical regions. Plantains are staple crops, and can also be processed into various kinds of food including the plantain flours. They can also be eaten their ripe state.
On the industrial uses, plantains are also used as raw materials for the production of fabrics, sanitary pads and other products.
In the beverage industries, plantains can be used for making biscuits, breads, cakes and baby foods.
There has been a recorded increase in the demand of recent because of the strong demand for the flour. Many people are understanding the nutritional benefits.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FOA) ranked Nigeria as the fourth largest producer of plantains in the word with 2.8 million MT annually, behind Ghana with 3.6 million MT, Cameroun with 3.5 million MT and Colombia with 3.3 million MT.
Challenges of plantain farming in Nigeria
- Disease and pests: You have to devise means of preventing the attack of diseases and pests to be successful in plantain farming. One of the strategies that can help achieve this is by making use of pesticides.
- Irrigation: A huge percentage of farmers in Nigeria rely on rain for irrigation. The unstable climatic changes recorded in the world today has lead to a reduction in productivity.
- Marketing: No matter how bountiful your harvest is, without proper marketing, you will find it tough selling your farm produces. You need to do a proper market research before even cultivating the crops. You’ll need to understand your target market and how to get to them.
- Land ownership: The issue of land ownership is has negatively affected the practice of farming in Nigeria. As we all know, in Nigeria, the ownership of land in Nigeria is vested in the state government. So before setting up your farm, you need to carry out some surveys to find out the possibility of losing the land to the government in the future. Find out the possibility of a major road passing across your land should the government want to carry pout some expansions later on.
- Sub-standard fertiliser and other inputs: Most farmers use fertilisers to improve the yield of the crops. When the fertiliser producing companies sell poor quality fertilisers to these farmers, it leads to a decrease in productivity. This also applies to the fungicides, insecticides and other pesticides sold in the Nigeria markets.
How to start a plantain farming business in Nigeria
Below are some certain requirements you need to put in place before starting your plantain farming business in Nigeria:
Have a business plan
Just like every other business, having a business plan is very essential to the success of your plantain farming business. Your business plan will be describing the nature of your business, the marketing strategies you will be implementing, your financial background and other basic information about your business including the challenges.
Your business plan will also be used to access loans from the government or other financial institutions. In short, getting a business plan won’t only help you in setting up your business, but also comes to play if you later want to access some funding.
Loamy soils, because of its organic to inorganic ratio, are the best for plantain farming. The combination of the mineral particles present in loamy soils and the organic materials will help in keeping the soil loose and fertile.
In Nigeria the areas with the highest number of plantain plantation are the states in the tropics like Delta, Edo, Ogun, Ekiti and Cross River states.
If your choice land isn’t rich enough for the cultivation, you have the option of developing it before use. You can apply organic manure like cow dungs and other things that will improve the soil’s fertility.
The next in line after acquiring the land is to get is set for planting. The first step in land preparation is bush clearing. While clearing the bushes and cutting the trees, ensure there are ways of protecting the plantain suckers from the sun’s rays. You can do this by either planting the plantain suckers in a bunch or having trees to protect them.
When you’re done with the clearing, you can then proceed to the next stage of land preparation which involves tilling the soil. Depending on your business scale and financial capability, you can either go for manual labour or make use of machines for land preparation.
You can also apply organic manure to improve the fertility of the soil before planting the plantain suckers.
Go for healthy and viable plantain suckers
Plantain suckers are used for growing new plantain plants. One of the mistakes every farmer should avoid is making the wrong choices while buying the suckers. Ensure you buy them from reputable farmers to avoid buying the unhealthy ones that might later cripple your business.
There are three main varieties of plantain suckers; the water plantain sucker, maidenhead plantain sucker, and sword plantain sucker. Experts advise farmers to go for either the maidenhead or sword plantain suckers. They’ve been proven to be highly resistant to pest attacks. They also produce strong plantain plants and healthy fruits.
You can buy the plantain suckers for anything between ₦1,000 to ₦2,000. One good thing is that you only need to buy them once, and they’d serve for many years. The plantains normally give rise to new suckers as they grow.
Application of manure to the farmland is a must, especially if used used a bulldozer for the soil clearing. This is because of the top soil that will be displaced during the clearing process. The fertilisers should be applied 1 feet to the right and 1 feet to the left away from the suckers.
Plantain plants consume manures a lot, so it is advisable you make use of animal dungs and household wastes that can decompose easily.
Weeding of the farmland
Weeding of the land should be done between 2 to 3 weeks after planting, and then after every 6 to 8 weeks. Due to shading, the rate of weeding can be decreased after 5 to 6 months.
You can make use of herbicides if your farmland is large, probably in hectares. If it isn’t that big, you can go for manual labour instead.
About the type of herbicide to use; force up is good, but you need to take care to prevent it from touching the plantain leaves. Avoid using gramoxone, as it’ll turn a healthy greenish plant yellowish.
You’d also plant some trees to shelter the plantains from wind erosion. The plantain is tall and tree-like with a sturdy pseudostem and large broad leaves arranged spirally at the top. The pseudostem is made of rolled bases of leaves and prone to falling when exposed to the wind.
The plant trees should be protected from high winds by planting them in a site protected by a wind break such as a building or a hedge. You can also plant other crops like guava, moringa and cassia in the farmland.
You can start harvesting in 8 to 10 months after planting. The fruits should be harvested immediately they starts to ripen. One good thing about the plantain is that harvesting of the fruits continue all through the season, meaning you keep making money from your plantain farming business.
There is an increase in the demand for plantains of recent due to the many nutritional and health benefits of the fruit. You can sell them directly to the consumers in the local markets pr supply to companies that process them into flour.
You can also sell them at wholesale rates to the traders or export them to other countries. The demand for plantains is bigger than the supply, so you won’t have any issues selling your farm produces.
We’ve seen the steps on how you can start a plantain farming business in Nigeria. Like I earlier said, you have to plan on your target customers even before planting the suckers, you know you’re there for the money.
If you’re already experienced in the business or have enquires, you can drop them as comments below.