The proliferation of juice making companies in Nigeria is gradually opening up avenues for Nigerian farmers to make money by producing raw materials for these industries.
Niyya integrated Farms, located along Kaduna-Abuja Expressway, is already growing the passion fruits on a seven hectares land for its Farm Pride drinks.
Until recently, Passion Fruit is alien to Nigerians and grown mostly in Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, USA, Australia, Kenya and South Africa .
Michael Kajeu, the General Farm Manager, Niyya-Farm group, who took this reporter through the highly-rich vitamin C Passion Fruit Vine, noted that it has huge market potentials in the country and highly sought after in the international fruit market.
The passion fruit
Passion Fruit, (Passiflora edulis, a close relative to violets, is botanically part of the Passifloraceae family. There are more than 500 species in this family and more than 50 of them are edible. However, only the purple passion fruit and the yellow are grown commercially. The main variety for producing juice and juice concentrate is the yellow variety.
iTi tropicals- an independent US company with sole business of importing high quality tropical fruit purees, concentrates, said: “because of passion fruit’s unique, intense, aromatic flavour characteristics, passion fruit is a "natural" ingredient for juice blends. It has also been described as a natural concentrate and it blends so well with other juice flavors. In Germany, one of the largest juice consuming countries in the world, passion fruit concentrate and banana puree constitute the base of almost every "multivitamin" juice produced. These "multivitamin" juices are second only to apple juice in popularity among Germans. In Brazil, the fruit is used in fresh beverages made both at home and in "stalls" or juice stands popular throughout the country.”
How passion fruit grows
The passion fruit is a vigorous, climbing vine that clings by tendrils to almost any support. It can grow 15 to 20 ft. per year once established and must have strong support. It can produce for five to seven years if good agronomy practices are adopted.
Planting the fruit
A farmer is expected to plant the vines in full sun except in very hot areas where partial shade is preferable. The vine can be rather rampant, so it is important to plant it next to a chain link fence or install a strong trellis before planting. The plants can also be cultured into an attractive arbor. Pruning is necessary to keep the vines within bounds, to make harvest easier and to keep the plants productive by maintaining vigorous growth.
Passion fruit vines need fertile soils, probably additional fertiliser, and they appreciate all the compost and mulch you can spare. A healthy soil, teeming with worms and microbes and lots of organic matter is your best bet.
The root system of passion fruit is small for the size of the plant it has to sustain. Especially while a passion fruit is fruiting, it needs a lot of water. It needs a very regular water supply at all times. However, passion fruit can't handle waterlogged soil. Make sure your site is free draining.
When to harvest
When the fruits are ripe they will drop. Dropping on the ground does not hurt the fruits. Passion fruit can be collected in bags and stored for weeks.
Market for passion fruits
There is growing consumer interest internationally in general and this means opportunity for Nigerian farmers. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the international market for passion fruit is growing due to the consumer trend of seeking more and more exotic fruit varieties. The FAO Trade statistics in recent years show that the United States, EU, Japan and China are the largest importer of tropical fruits.