Africa provides more than 50% of plantain produced in the world with Nigeria being part of the
four major countries involved in plantain production. Of the most important staples containing starch in the country, plantains come third after maize and cassava. The southern part of Nigeria is saturated with plantain production with at least 11 states involved in plantain farming. These states record the most rainfall in the year which makes them the most suitable states to produce plantain as it is best grown in the rainy season. About 2.4 million metric tons of plantain is produced by Nigeria yearly. Plantain production in Nigeria yields a good amount of profit but it could do better if more young entrepreneurs find interest in it and policies on the exportation of plantains to other countries are put in place by the government to boost the economy.
Plantain Farming In Nigeria
Plantains are categorised under perennial crops because they are available throughout the year once planted. Plantains require a lot of hydration for proper growth and fruiting therefore they are planted in the rainy season. Plantain farming in Nigeria is done during the peak of the rainy season, around June, for the most returns of investments by plantain farmers and plantains to still be in production when the dry season comes around. As stated earlier, states in the southern geopolitical zones in Nigeria produce the most plantains in the country due to their high amount of rainfall, however, some northern states also participate in plantain production. These northern states record a reasonable amount of rainfall which makes it suitable enough to produce plantain but not enough to yield a harvest in large quantities.
How To Plant Plantain In Nigeria
The first step is to acquire a piece of land at least one hectare which is about 2.5 acres. Clearing the land of any obstacles like stones, bushes, trees and so on, is required to prepare the land for the cultivation of plantain. The piece of land then needs to be broken to remove roots, tiny stones and stumps from the soil for the land to be suitable enough for planting. The land clearing and breaking processes can be done either manually or mechanically depending on the budget of the farm owner.
To begin planting, one would need a plantain sucker. This grows alongside mature plantains. Plantain suckers act as seeds. They are baby plants that can be replanted to produce more plantains. Plantain suckers can be bought from a local market or plantain farm. One sucker costs about N100. The suckers should be planted in holes dug 30cm by 30cm by 30cm with each sucker planted eight to ten feet away from each other to give room for growth.
Plantains should be planted in the middle of the rainy season. This is because plantains need a minimum of three to four months of rainfall for proper growth. Thereon after, it can be manually watered until it is time to be harvested. Plantains take a total of about fourteen to twenty-three months to develop and fruit. Once the first harvest is recorded, harvest cycles go on for about four to six, or more, years as long as good land maintenance and rejuvenation practices are done by the farmers on the farmland.
How Many Plantain Plants (Suckers) Per Acre?
In an acre, you can have up to seven hundred and fifty plantain suckers with each plant producing at least three suckers. One plant sucker can yield as many as ten bunches of plantain at harvest.
Challenges Of Plantain Farming In Nigeria
The plantain farming business is a great agribusiness in Nigeria due to how profitable it is. However, many people rush into this business without being cautious of certain challenges that come along the way which may lead them to losses in the plantain farming business. Some of these challenges and how they can be solved are:
- Storage – The shelf life of plantain is extremely low. This is because of some environmental factors that easily affect plantain. These factors such as temperature, air composition and humidity cause plantain to get ripe and rot very quickly. This eventually leads to a lot of plantain going to waste.
Solution: Plantain farmers should devise a good storage structure to prevent these environmental factors from affecting their plantain harvest. Farmers can also come up with innovative ways to market and sell their harvest of plantains very fast to consumers.
- Pests and Diseases – The most common pest and disease that affects plantain in Nigeria is the black leaf streak and banana weevil which cause the fruit-bearing plants to snap. This reduces the amount of plantain that should be harvested.
Solution: A way to prevent this challenge is by adopting better practices and making use of pest-resistant cultivars.
- Labour – There usually is not enough manpower to carry out cultivation procedures on the farmland as the other crops asides from plantain are being planted during the rainy season which leads to a low yield during plantain harvests.
Solution: Farmers could invest in mechanised forms of labour or plan ahead of time how the cultivation process should run in cases where there is low human labour available.
- Marketing – Plantains are very perishable so putting a large quantity of them on the market at the same time might lead to wastage especially when the buyers are less than the supply.
Solution: Plantain farmers should create marketing strategies in such a way that buyers are available before the plantain harvests are done.
- Land – This is a common issue that most young entrepreneurs who have shown interest in plantain production face. To begin a plantain farming business, one needs at least a hectare of land. In urban areas especially, the cost of acquiring land is very high thereby making this step in owning a plantain farm difficult.
Solution: The only way around this challenge is searching for property in rural areas that would most likely fit the budget one has set for acquiring land.
- Agricultural Practises – A lot of plantain farmers use certain cultivation techniques that are archaic. These techniques no longer produce the best results.
Solution: Plantain farmers should carry out adequate research on more productive techniques for cultivating plantain.
- Transportation and Distribution – This is a major challenge of plantain production in Nigeria. Once plantains are harvested, it is difficult to transport them from the farmland to the major market places especially those in urban areas where the demand is high. This is due to terrible roads and the expensive cost of transportation in the country. Another issue is the way the transportation is done. The harvested plantains are tightly stacked together in the trunk of vehicles without proper protection. This can lead to damages before the plantains reach the buyers.
Solution: Plantain farmers should invest in better transportation methods that would ensure the protection of their plantain produce to be sold for consumption.
- Finance – Most plantain farmers are found in situations where they do have enough funds to maintain their farmland. This reduces the quality of plantains that will be grown and harvested.
Solution: Farmers to plan adequately and set aside funds for maintenance purposes before they begin the process of planting.
- Government Policy – The plantain production business in Nigeria could be more profitable than it already is if farmers were able to export their plantain produce to other countries where the demand for plantain is lesser than the supply. The government is still yet to put policies in place to enable farmers to export their plantain produce easily to other nations in the world. There also are not enough grants given to the agricultural sector to aid in the production of important crops like plantain as well as amenities such as good roads, electricity and water to make the planting to distribution processes easier.
Solution: More than ever, these challenges faced by farmers should be brought to the attention of the government stating what the Nigerian economy would benefit from if certain policies and changes are made.
Plantain Farming Business In Nigeria
The plantain farming business in Nigeria is one of the most lucrative agricultural business ventures as it is easy to startup and yields a lot in profit. The strategic planting of plantains at the peak of the rainy season ensures the plantain farmers great returns during harvests and selling. The total cost of all the procedures to start a plantain farming business in Nigeria is between N1 million to N2 million with farmers earning a net profit of N300,000 to N900,000 after every cycle of harvest. Plantains are sold on the market for about N750 to N2,000 for a bunch.
Plantain farmers of nowadays do not only put their harvested plantains on the market but go ahead to process plantains into plantains chips, plantain flour and so on. These processed goods have become very popular amongst consumers causing way more returns for the farmers not only after a cycle but throughout the year. Some farmers also sell plantain suckers grown from plantain plants to other farmers to increase their earnings during the year. These innovations have made the plantain production in Nigeria more lucrative as there are higher demands for plantains and its products.