Plantain farming is one of the most untapped lucrative Agricultural businesses in Nigeria. One of the reasons why plantain business is lucrative is because it can keep yielding or producing throughout the planting season. You plant it once and you harvest it many times. Nigeria is among the largest producers of plantains in the world even though the country consumes more of it locally. Nigeria produces up to 2.8 million metric tons of plantain on an annual basis but the demand is still there. A bunch of plantain costs N1500 and up to 50 plantains bunches costs N75000. Nigeria also exports to different countries of the world. The states inside Nigeria with the largest plantations are Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Cross River, Ogun and the rest of the states in the tropics.
Before you jump into plantain farming, I think you should consider the challenges of plantain farming.
Few months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari urged Nigerian youths to maximise opportunities in agriculture, noting that ‘agriculture’ is the future of the country that will provide them with everything they need including respect. Need to mention that Plantain farming is one of such Agricultural business opportunities Nigerian youths can venture into.
Plantain is a stable food and a tropical crop. It is number 10 in the list of the most imperative crops in the world. Plantain resembles potatoes and has a flavour when it is unripe and prepared by steaming.
It can prepare for eating by frying, roasting, boiling or making into chips. Another method to prepare it is to grind it to flour and use it like wheat flour.
The crop is different from other crops since it yields more than once and requires less than other crops require. It forms gatherings or clusters which they use as a protection from excessive sunlight. The crop forms a population within an area but it should be in such a way that they do not disrupt each other. The plant is not a tree but herb and does not make use of seeds.
Its trees come from suckers and these suckers come from a plantation plant which can be redeveloped or transplanted. You can refer to the suckers as child plants for your plantation. They possess skinner, little leaves and the height is about one foot.
However, as the plantain develops, shielding it from solid breezes becomes necessary and sprinkling of water helps it. You can also sprinkle composts frequently and keep one or two suckers in its place.
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Benefits of Eating Plantain
Certain benefits come with consuming plantain and they are below;
- Plantain reduces ulcer since they contain phytochemical properties like leucocyanidin.
- It makes the bones stronger since they contain calcium and promotes stronger nails, teeth and muscles. Eating unripe plantain has some medicinal benefits. Medical practitioners confirm that the consumption of plantain helps to reduce diseases like osteoporosis which weakens the bones.
- Plantain promotes blood flow and is good for the heart and this is because it contains certain quantities of serotonin. This serotonin promotes the expansion of arteries and also improves the flow of blood thereby reducing the risk of diseases like stroke and artery diseases.
It also contains potassium which reduces hypertension and heart diseases. Its fiber content can reduce the level of chloresterol.
- It can reduce harmful radicals and these are free radicals from where there is radiation and other harmful substances such as tobacco. These radicals can affect aging, cancer and disease. Vitamin C is present in plantains and reduce the bad effects of free radicals.
Plantains can supply up to 35% of vitamin C for each day and is one of the best sources of vitamins.
- It is also good for sexual health
Plantain Family and its Botanical Name
The origin of plantain is from the genus Musa and they are cultivars of bananas. They have starch and sugar which is lesser than that of desert bananas. A classification from Linnaeus classifies plantain into 2 species and plantain belongs to Musa paradisiaca.
Bananas and plantains have no formal botanical classification and belong to the same family. Some countries have a clear difference between plantains and bananas. Plantains belong to cultivars which are AAA Group and ABB Group.
Steps To Start Commercial Plantain Plantation Business In Nigeria
To Start Commercial Plantain Farming business In Nigeria;
- Carryout market feasibility study
Proper Market research is among the first things to do before starting plantain plantation. During your market feasibility study, you will get to know your target market and the profitability of the business
2. Get a Land
This is the first stage of this business and the plantains grow well in rich loamy soils. Soils that can retain water and have humus strata is good for plantains. Chicken compost is also good compost for fertilizers and can help to prepare the land.
3. Prepare the Land
Clear the land of stumps, trees, stones and other unnecessary items. You may use the mechanised or the manual cleaning method. Make the land suitable for cultivation by getting the appropriate soil conditions necessary for the young plants to grow since this will promote your farming business.
Prepare the land before you start planting and consider the following attributes for your land:
- Land quality.
- Accessibility of land and water supply.
- Mechanical operations, equipment and tools.
- Labour and work necessities.
- Spacing and time plan and funding.
You may have to purchase the farm land unless you have one. You can purchase a hectare or two if you can afford that. You can also lease land. There is need for land improvement especially if the soil is not loamy. Organic manures like cow manure and poultry manure can be applied to the farm to increase the fertility of the soil. Thick vegetation on the land shows the soil is good for plantain cultivation.
Phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen should be in appropriate proportion. You have to till the land to increase soil aeration.
4. Choose/Purchase Viable Plantain Suckers
Plantain suckers are shoots that come from buds and these buds are the base of the plant. The crop originates from rhizomes or underground knobs which are corms.
Using the whole corm is harder, making the development of those smaller corms a more effective strategy. 3 categories of plantain suckers which you can choose from are water suckers, maidenheads and sword suckers.
- Water suckers do not possess a solid connection to rhizomes and they deliver smaller natural products with the weaker plants.
- A maidenhead follows an expansive pseudo stem and does not possess natural products. White water suckers possess wide leaves and short pseudo stems.
Sword suckers follow short pseudo stem and have leave limits like edges across the thin base. They possess a sound and productive pseudo stems. Purchase suckers that are hybrid and can yield much.
5. Plant The Plantain Suckers
Ensure proper land clearing before planting and mulching to prevent weeds. You can use herbicides and the hoeing method. Also use organic inputs and avoid planting in water logged areas. Do not cut of the roots before planting and buy the ones whose leave have the shape of a spear.
Make some holes for planting and this should be some metres apart from each other. Planting some metres apart can prevent unnecessary competition and striving for nutrients. Suckers develop buds at the base and these suckers develop from corms.
Remember to go for suckers that are free from pest diseases and damage. Length of each sucker should be between 4 and 5 feet. A space of 10 feet is preferable between 2 of the suckers and wetness of the soil should be in appropriate quantity.
Do not use urea on the plants. Price of suckers is different in many locations and most of the farmers offer discounts. These discounts come from farmers who market them in bulk quantities and you should buy healthy suckers.
6. Weed The Plantain Farm
Hire labourers depending on the size of the farm and you will need these labourers for weeding, harvesting and land preparation. You may also use mechanical labour and this is more applicable for large scale farming.
7. Add Fertilize To The Plantain Farm
You can purchase fertilizer with chemical fertilizer, wood ash and poultry compost to promote yield and development. This will reduce the invasion of borer weevils and nematodes. Natural fertilizer maintains the temperature and increasing its managing fertility and soil.
Weeding is necessary for plantains and this begins during land preparation. Remove weeds after 6 to 8 weeks when the canopy is still open but the weeds will not be much due to the shading. Herbs and grasses are not good for plantains since they compete with it for nutrients.
Biological, manual or chemical methods are methods of weed control.
- Biological weeding involves the introduction of another animal and this animal feeds on those weeds. Turkeys and decks are examples of animals that can feed on weeds.
- Chemical weeding involves the use of active ingredients which are powerful enough for weed destruction when it is applied at the appropriate ratio with the water. Nevertheless these particular methods have some residual effects on the ecosystem but you can reduce this by not abusing it.
Place the fertilizer in an even manner around the crop and this should be at a distance between 4 and 8 feet.
8. Harvest Matured Plantain Bunch
Your plantain bunch becomes ready for harvesting between 8 and 10 months. It will take few months for more harvesting since plantain goes with multiple harvests. If you notice that plantain tree bends because of weight, use a bamboo or strip to prop it.
9. Storing the harvested Plantain
You may have to market your plantain immediately since they can easily ripen. Store the plantains at room temperature and away from direct sunlight.
You can also store them in refrigerators or make them into chips depending on the use. Another method is to dry them and store them in a container that is air tight.
10. Sale Of The Harvested Plantain
You can sell your plantain in many places and examples of such places are markets and industries. Some people prefer purchasing in bulk from farmers and then reselling to consumers and retailers.
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Plantain farmers can also market them in bulk quantities to industries who process them to plantain chips, plantain flour etc.
Cost of Starting a Plantain Plantation Business
The cost of starting the plantain plantation varies and it depends on certain factors. Its cost can increase if you hire labourers but it depends on the size of your farm. However, you can get back your capital 4 times from your first harvest and continue with it beyond 5 years.
Starting a plantain business is one of the best decisions you can ever make in Nigeria and plantain business is very lucrative. Make that decision now and see for yourself. There is high demand of plantain in Nigeria and the crop comes with some medicinal properties.