Plantain Value Chain: Plantain is a plant that is generally grown in the tropical areas. A full plantain cycle from cultivation to fruiting to harvesting takes about 9 – 15 months depending on the species.
Plantain is best grown in swampy lands because it needs a lot of water to survive. This article explores opportunities in plantain cultivation and supply of plantain not just for consumption but also for developing local industries to produce other useful things from plantain.
According to FAO statistics on plantain and banana production, Nigeria ranks 5th in the world with an estimate of 3,039,929 tons per year in 2014. It is also estimated that about 70 million people in west and central Africa derive more than 25% of their carbohydrate from plantain making it an important source of energy (nairaland).
Nigeria does not export plantain because it produces more for local consumption than export. The consumption of plantain has increased tremendously in Nigeria in recent years because of rapid increase in urbanization and a great demand for easy and convenient food by non farming urban population (nairaland).
The demand in the country is very high so it’s even difficult to meet up with supply that is why it’s not enough to export to earn foreign currency. But what we really need as a nation is to grow more and add value through industrialization then we can export products made from plantain. This will create jobs, reduce poverty and create wealth for the nation.
Plantain is a staple crop in Nigeria; almost every Nigerian culture has different ways of preparing it as a meal. It’s a source of carbohydrate, rich in vitamin and minerals such as calcium and iron. Unripe plantain can be used as a booster for iron deficiency in the body.
Processing is the best way to preserve plantain into storable food products because its fruit life cycle does not last more than 7 days. Processing will help enhance industrialization in the country and improve the value of the crop for availability.
It is very important to key into these value chains, farming alone cannot develop and sustain the economy it will be like a waste of time and energy.
Plantain can be processed into flour for healthy confectionaries used in place of cassava or corn flower chips, jams & jellies, peels processed into animal feed, the trunks are used for ropes, table mats and handbags, beer & wine, syrups, vinegar, biscuits and others.
Processing plantain into flour
They are chopped into pieces and sundried by spreading them under the sun. Dryers can also be used to dry for industrial purposes and they can also be oven dried. The good thing is plantain flour can be done as small scale business you can change to industrial dryers, then pulverize and package to be able to meet the demand.
Production of plantain flour is relatively cheaper when compared to flour made from other crops like wheat and cereals and healthy as well. Plantain can also be dried when it’s ripened; it is grinded into a paste and dried using driers.
Sodium metabisulphate solution is added to improve the color of the final product to prevent discoloration (Solanke and Falade, 2010). The powder should be stored in moisture proof bags (Thompson, 1995).
Challenges faced in plantain production are the high rate of post harvest losses recorded as a result of accessibility, infrastructure and handling. Innovation should be introduced in plantain production to solve post harvest problems.
Policies should be created to aid and boost production through creation of industries. Developing the production of plantain beyond what presently obtains in Nigeria is the need for plantain revolution initiative program (deolly et al, 2016).
Empowerment programs should be targeted at the youths to train them on the investment opportunities in plantain, modern plantain farm techniques and the allocate lands in the regions where plantain thrives like south south. Then create policies to guide them, supervise and monitor their progress regularly.
The Government of these states has an opportunity to make a difference in this area, by generating revenue from creating plantain processing industries. All they need to do is group these youths and empower them to raise millions of plantain stands.
They can create plantain hubs in their states, create market policies and distribution channels to sell in all parts of the country, this will in turn create employment, solve food security problem and reduce poverty in Nigeria.