How to Start Plantain Farming Business in Nigeria and Maximize Profits

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Market Analysis

Investments in farming, processing and marketing of plantain in Nigeria have become lucrative ventures in recent times due to increasingly demand for plantain and its products. Plantain is highly sought after because of its nutritional values and medicinal effects — it is a good source of Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Protein, Vitamins etc, and it is highly recommended food for diabetic patients, and a good preventive for health conscious individuals.

Almost every household consumes plantain in different forms. Plantain pulp can be eaten by cooking or frying it. It can as well be processed into flour. When processed into flour, it can be eaten as gruel and used in making biscuits, cakes, puff-puff etc.

The market is large, expanding and sustainable because it’s a basic food item, its demand increases with scarcity especially during rainy season, which is its off-season. One dozen of plantain is sold between N10,000 - N65,000 depending on sizes, seasons and locations. During the off-season, the prices go as up as N20,000 - N65,000 depending on sizes and locations. The demands and prices are highest in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. So if you live in this areas and their proxy states, you have largest local markets.

Plantain is grown in all the 17 states of the Southern Nigeria. Nigeria produces about 2.8 million metric tons of plantain per annum.

Nigeria is the 6th largest plantain producing country in the world but not among the top 15 plantain exporting countries. There is therefore, is opportunities for Nigerian plantain producers at the export market.

Once planted plantain can continue to yield exponentially for next five years. After five years you can cut down all the plantain, burn the plantation, to improve the soil fertility and there will be new sprouts of the plantain crops.

Plantain farming will not require your attention all the time — you will have time to do other jobs and businesses.

Steps to Take in Starting Plantain Farm

Site Selection

Plantain is adapted to wide range of environmental conditions from freely drained upland ecology to lowland ecologies. The lowland could be  irrigated land or swampy land. 

Soil Type: Plantain requires about 300cm annual rainfall, therefore, select loamy, clay or  loamy-clay soil with water retention capacity, and 7-14 pH level. Plantain does not like drought and wind, therefore, uphill and slant land is not suitable for plantain farming.

Land Preparation

Clear  bush and fell all trees.

Burn the bush

Field/farm Measurement 

Field measurement is very important because its accuracy guides a farmer to know his farm size for vital decision making on farm operations including the right amount of inputs needed and the expected outputs from the farm. The use of Geographical Positioning System, GPS hands receiver has simplified the rigor in farm measurement. Land area can easily be measured with the use of GPS

Variety Selection

The recommended varieties are the Red Ogoni, Agbagba, Bini, Orishele and the Osaboaso. 

Hybrids are also available which can be sourced from crops seeds and seedlings agencies and companies. 

They are propagated by means of suckers or bits. The suckers could be

1. Sword suckers: These are suckers without open leaves

2. Maidens: These are young plantains with open leaves and

3. Peepers which are small suckers just emerging from the soil.

Sword suckers are the best propagules i.e. the best planting materials. When maidens are used, it is necessary to cut them back 60cm before planting. Peepers are planted in polybags or nursery before planting into the field. This could last for 2 months provided the soil in the polybag is rich. For quicker multiplication of suckers, a mature plant is cut back near the ground. The base is consolidated with rich soil forming a mound around it. Suckers quickly force through the mound. They can then be removed and planted in the nursery as soon as they are visible. With this method, it is possible to obtain 20-30 suckers from one plant.

Alt: = "photo showing heap of plantain cultivars
Treated Plantain Cultivars/ Suckers


Planting

Planting Season: Planting season for upland is between May – September, when the rains are established. If you intend to have you first harvest during the off-season, plant May – July because the expected date of first harvest of plantain is 1 year, and plantain is usually costly between April- August, which is the off-season. For irrigated plantation, you can plant anytime including October-April. But for swampy land, planting is done between November-March, when the rain has stop and before it sets in for the next season. For more on swampy land plantain farming read How to Plant Plantain in Swampy Land in Nigeria (Good Alternative to Irrigation for Off-season Optimal Yield)

Planting distance: 4m X 4m

Quality:  about 625 per hectare

Plant any other seasonal crops (cereal or vegetable) like Maize, Okra, Shoko, Ugu etc. Interplanting seasonal crops will give you residual income to cover investment cost or at least take care of farm operating costs. It will also help in controlling weed on the plantation. Interplanting is done for the first one year before the shrubs and leaves of the plantain crops cover the farm.


Weed Management 

Weed the plantation by hoeing or slashing, or by applying herbicides. Herbicides is more economical. I recommend hoeing only for the first time and  when other crops (maize and vegetables) are planted in the plantation. 

Plant other crops in the plantation, it helps to control the weed, and brings residual income.

Weed the plantain plantation in 2 months interval in the first year when the plantains are still small, weed in 4 months interval in the subsequent years when the plantain shrubs and leaves won’t allow for much weed to grow in the plantation. You can use both selective and non selective herbicides. But I recommend Force Up and Grass Cutter.

Integrated Soil Fertilizer Management

Application of inorganic fertilizer is optional 

You can provide organic manure to the plantains by heaping the weed hay or animal dungs on the plantain

If you decide to use inorganic fertilizer,  apply NPK 15:15:15 twice a year. Use of inorganic fertilizer makes for optimal yield but it affects the shelf life of the yields.

Pest Control

Pests usually attack the root system, leaves of plantain. 

Treat your plantain cultivars (suckers) with pesticides before planting.

If pests disturb the plantains, spray pesticides like Caterpillar Force on the  emerging leaves.

If the attack is on the root, dig round the root system and pure in pesticides and cover with sand. 


Maturity, Yield and Harvesting

It takes about 8 months for plantain to begin to yield and it takes about three months to mature. Hybrid can start to yield at 6 month. Plantain has 1.5 years life span.

Plantain annual yield is 25-30 tons per hectare. This yield increases exponentially for about for years as the plantain continue to multiply.

Therefore, first plantain harvest is in about a year time. Plantain is all-year-round yielding crop but peak season is the try season (October-April). During these months plantain is usually  much available and  cheaper.  Upland plantain yields during the try season (October-April). This is the main planta

Marketing

Plantain is easy to market. You can sell  your plantain at the farm gate or in fruits markets to off takers, processors (those who process plantain into flour, chips etc), restaurants, retailers, consumers. You can use  some or all the 11 Agricultural marketing channels to market your plantain produce.  If youbproduce in very large quantities, you can export; globalization has made Agricultural marketing easy

Challenges and Risks in Plantain Farming

Well, you can end this without talking about some challenges faced by plantain farmers, which would face as well.

1. Access to land

Access to land is one of the major challenges facing plantain farming in Nigeria no thanks to the kind of land tenure system in Nigeria. Plantain plantation requires a vast land mass. Land acquisition process is very cumbersome in Nigeria, especially in the southern Nigeria. Land administration is mostly held by families in accordance to customary laws, the lands are passed on to generations with warnings not to dispose with family lands. To get  enough land for plant plantation especially for economic quantities production, it may require acquiring lands belonging to many families, getting these families to agree to sell their land is an uphill task. Land Use Act makes the process of acquiring land more cumbersome. It takes ages to get land title from state governments

2. Finance

Although plantain farm is not too expensive to maintain, the startup capital is usually huge especially to acquire enough farmland, suckers and inputs. Plantain farming is somewhat long time investment as it takes about a year to have the first harvest. Within this period, more finance will be needed to run the farm.

3. Transportation

Transportation is another major challenge facing plantain farming business. Plantain is a weighty good, both the seedlings and fruits. It costs much to transport the cultivars to the farm for planting, and the yields to the marketing.

4. Drought

Plantain is a water loving crop that requires about 300cm annual rainfall, drought therefore has adverse effect on it. In the period of drought, young plantain will experience stunted growth, the bunch and bobs of yields will be small. Some plantain trees will dry up.

5. Fire outbreak

Fire outbreak on plantain farm can wide out the entire investment, although plantain has the capability to regenerate even after being razed by fire, there will be loss of revenue within that period. To prevent incident of fire outbreak or to minimize it impact when one occurs, always cut off the dried leaves 

6. Excess wind

Wind also disturbs plantain, it can fell all grown and bearing plantain crops. To mitigate the effects of wind on you plantation windbreaker trees along the perimeter of the plantation especially the North axis. Prevailing winds usually blow from North to South. To know which side is North, in the morning face where the Sun rises, that’s the East, your back is West, your right hand side is South, while  your left hand side is the North.

7. Market failure

Plantain is a perishable fruit. It has a short shelf life. Buyers sometimes take advantage of this especially during peak season to give farmers unreasonable prices. 




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