Over the years, farming in Nigeria has taken a dramatic turn for the better by creating jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurs who have the passion to go into farming business.
Millionaires are currently being made every year through farming in Nigeria and there is no end to the prospects of creating more wealth through farming. One of the lucrative farming segments in Nigeria today is plantain farming, from which it has been estimated that farmers could earn N2.5 billion annually.
However, millions of naira is being generated through plantain farming as individual farmers, both young and old, are making nothing less than N2 million to N3 million and above annually depending on the plantain suckers planted, hectares of land and how the farm is being managed.
Despite Nigeria being regarded as one of the largest plantain producing countries in the world, it has not been featuring among plantain exporting countries because it produces more for local consumption than for export.
National per capita consumption figures show its importance relative to other starch staples. On the other hand, these figures do not show regional reliance, which is often very important for highly perishable crops that are usually consumed in or near areas of production.
However, the consumption and exportation of plantain has risen tremendously in Nigeria in recent years because of rapidly increasing urbanisation and increased demand for easy and convenient foods by the non-farming urban populations.
Besides being the staple for many people in more humid regions, plantain is a delicacy and favoured snack for people even in other ecologies. A growing industry, mainly plantain chips, is believed to be responsible for the high demand being experienced now in Nigeria. Apart from that, the Southwest also converts it to plantain flour, which the people of the region call ‘Amala dudu’. It is more nutritious and expensive than yam and cassava flour.
Today, the number of farms producing plantain in Nigeria is very few and this makes the demand for it high and profitable and the plantain market is young and not crowded.
On how to make millions from plantain, an expert from Eminence PlantainVille who spoke with Daily Sun explained that plantain farming is a very lucrative business as a bunch of plantain sells between N500 and N1,500. Take this calculation for example: if a farmer planted 1000 plantain suckers with an average of 12.5kg per bunch yield, if one kg is sold at N100 then the farmer will have N1,250 a bunch totaling N1,250,000 at the end of a year. After deducting expenses of about N500,000 (without irrigation), the farmer will have N750,000 in first year. With proper farm management, the farmer will harvest every nine months and have suckers to sell and expand the farm, which will generate more income.
Just of recent, a youth group under the auspices of Concerned Youth Empowerment Association of Nigeria launched the first ever ‘plantain bread’ in Nigeria to support the diversification efforts of the Federal Government and to boost the economy.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, at the launch said developing noble products from crops grown locally such as plantain is very important because apart from the health benefits to be derived, it also has the potential of creating jobs along the value chain and by extension, eliminating poverty in the country.
He added: “The present administration has identified agriculture as single most critical sector that has the potential for mass job creation needed to tackle the issue of youth unemployment. Likewise, agriculture needs youth participation to change the labour composition and replace the aging farming population while modernising the processes through innovation and creativity just like the plantain bread.”
The National President of the association, Mr. Noble Adelu, said: “the initiative was driven by patriotic concern to cut down the rate of food importation into the country. We went into research and we discovered that we could make use of plantain flour in place of wheat flour, which we import to make bread. The flour can be used to bake bread, cake, make ‘fufu’ and other pastries.”
The Managing Director of Eminence PlantainVille and KutanVille, Racham Victor, said that plantain occupies a strategic position for rapid food production in Nigeria and is ranked third among starchy staples.
According to him, the country’s output doubled in the last 20 years while contributions of plantain to the income of rural households in major producing areas in Nigeria continue to increase in the last few years.
He added: “Unlike some other starchy staples whose demand tend to fall with rising income, demand for plantain increases with increasing income and the potential for industrial processing of plantain has recently been adopted. Plantain farming should be an avenue for the government to create wealth and employment for Nigerians, especially the youths because it is a staple food that commands high price with high demand and ready market.”
Speaking on how he made wine from plantain, he said that plantain wine may be new in Nigeria but not to the world. He said right now India is already in commercial production of plantain wine and making millions, adding that Uganda is also doing fine in that area.
He explained that research shows that the procedures in producing plantain/banana wine and juice is simple and can be done anywhere.
On the acceptability of the wine in the Nigerian market, he was optimistic that it would be accepted because it has the same benefit and nutritional value with any other form in which plantain can be taken, saying all lovers of wine will love it.
He argued that if plantain and banana industry is taken seriously, government could generate revenue through opening of international trade for plantain and banana, adding that despite being one of the highest producers of plantain in the world, Nigeria has never exported plantain. He said that government could make more money from registered commercial plantain and banana farms as plantain-processing companies will also pay tax.
As part of efforts to start exporting plantain, he said there is already a crowd-funding plantain and banana village project in Ekiti State, which will enable farmers who may wish to invest in plantain farming to do so easily and make profits.
While advising intending plantain farmers, he said they should consider irrigation before planting, saying the reason Nigeria usually has temporary plantain glut in the market in on-season and scarcity in off-season is because majority of existing and intending plantain farmers are rain dependent.
Said he: “At the onset of rain, they all start planting, which makes the produce to be out at once resulting to glut. If an intending farmer cannot afford to irrigate his/her plantain farm alone, he can do it in partnership or join crowd-funded plantain village project. Intending farmers should also equip themselves with adequate knowledge of plantain cultivation.”