Hon. Oghenekaro Adjarho, is the national chairman, Banana and Plantain Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, in this exclusive interview with Ruth Tene Natsa, he spoke on the need for government to be more involved in banana and plaintain cultivation business and lots more.Excerpts.
Are there particular climates to grow plantains?
Yes, but in Nigeria, anywhere close to a river, you can grow it. In Abuja here you can see bananas around the valleys.
How would you value the national plantain market?
It is huge, we have a very fine market, and with a population of over 170million persons , we are in fact under producing. We need more farmers to key into plantain and banana production. Currently we are under-producing because the kind of harvest we have is low, varieties are also very many, also as soon as a particular variety is produced which we are trying to do and it’s good for the market, production will definitely improve.
Would you agree that plantain is an expensive product?
We have a problem in this country where we believe that plantain is seasonal, which I do not believe, we have done planting in January, February, March , August and we are planting now in September to let the world know that these products can be planted in any season, especially in the south-west, south-south and south-east. In Taraba State we are planting now in this month of August and in Plateau, we are planting in September, but we have a culture of seasonal planting so they plant only at the period of April which the white man introduced to us, after that, there is no planting and at the harvest time , you buy plantains very cheap,then when it becomes scarce, the prices also hike before the farmers begin planting again but this is not good.
What are the physical and economic benefits of plantain?
Very good, it is good and help diabetic patients, it is good for blood pressures foods, you can blend it with other materials, it reduces asthmas, stretches the lungs and if you eat banana very well, it helps enhances bowel movement, there are lots of health as well as financial benefits .From every hectare where you have about 250-500 suckers, you make a million naira, so there is both financial and physical benefits.
What are some of the challenges of your members ?
There are many really, but most importantly is the fact that there are no proper research institutes for plantain and banana farming. If you compare Nigeria to India, there are specific research institutes specifically for plantain and bananas.In Nigeria, what we have are general institutes. Such as NIHORT, which is not doing anything very good , even the Zaria, it is only when they have exhibitions they come in with some tiny plantain stalks for sale which is not good enough, but that is not enough , those institutes are supposed to be working with us, that is the problem we are having in Nigeria. Other challenges are processing, we do not have the machines, often times, we have to go to China, sometimes even when we have those, we do not have the electricity to go ahead with the production. Of course, there are many products that can be gotten from the processing of plantain and banana, even malt, whisky, wine and so many other things can be produced from processing the product.Then of course there is this issue waste sometimes, and the ability for our farmers to get to the real market which of course we are working on.
Have you sought partnership with government and did you benefit from the ATA?
Yes, we are doing that now. As for the ATA, we were not properly registered as a growers market and processing association, but the past government made it possible, as it is now, the association is just one year old. As for the new government, they have to settle down and see what they can do, but right now, they are working with us. The ministries of agriculture and trade and investments are all working with us.
Would you say government is supporting the plantain/bananas value chain sufficiently?
Not really, even though, we are a new organisation, the federal ministry of agriculture as well as trade and investments know that we are existing.
As a new organisation, what value do you see yourselves adding to the market?
What we are a planning is to train 100 graduates to go into plantain and banana business. Each must have at least two hectares of land per state and if that is done, the production will be high and if we do that, you will see that each state will have plenty of plantain and banana and the cost will come down, in addition to many people getting benefits from banana. Another major benefit is that the economy will grow, because a million naira per hectare or two million per two hectare is enormous, no civil servant can get that, so the economy will grow as much as possible and we will have enough to eat.
What have you benefitted from being a member of the AFAN?
Truth is AFAN has had its own problems, they are just settling down, and we are trying to see how we can come together and become stronger than what it is today. But FACAN which is the other part of industrial have been helping us , they helped us during our inaugural workshop; they helped us with adverts and even supported us financially, but AFAN is still fresh. In fact this is just our second NEC meeting.
If the government were to empower you today what will be your immediate request?
It will be to establish cottage industries in every state that has the potential to produce plantains and bananas, to put value to plantain, because without value we lose everything and the farmer gains nothing, but a little value addition makes all the difference. Just a little value to plantain chips(kpekere) and you find what you would sell for N100, you can sell for N300.So we need cottage industries to add value to production and help train people into sucker modification, which we are trying to partner with NABDA.
How affordable would you say the products are presently?
As at now, plantain is very cheap, because this is harvest season which is generally accepted by Nigerian.Two to three months back, it was a bit more expensive, people sold one lap for N24,000 which means, it’s N2000 for one good bunch, but today, a good bunch sells for less than N500, so it’s seasonal, but if we can plant every season, even off season, we will be able to beat down the price.