How to start Plantain farming in Nigeria

Want to start plantain farming in Nigeria? Here’s a detailed guide to put you through.

Perhaps you are one of the many people that loved taking fried plantain popularly known as ‘Boli’. It has a unique delicacy and its combination with groundnut makes it sweeter. That is just one-way plantain can be prepared.

Plantain farming in Nigeria can be very profitable. It is undoubtedly one of the most lucrative business ideas in Nigeria today. It is nearly impossible to see a Nigerian who doesn’t eat plantain that makes it is a very marketable food product.

This healthy food also has a lot of uses. If you know how to market farm produce, you will smile to the bank. Plantain is very easy to cultivate and maintain, unlike other cash crops that require so much time and money to maintain.

Plantain is one of the most common staple foods mostly grown in the tropical regions of Nigeria and West Africa. It has Southeast Asia as the primary origin and West Africa as secondary origin but is grown all over the world today.

In Nigeria, it can also be prepared by boiling, steaming, or made into plantain chips. Recently, plantain has been processed into flour and it has superior nutritional value.

An interesting fact about plantain farming is that it is harvested in batches. After the first batch of harvest, your plantain plant would keep producing more fruits till the harvest season is over. So you do the planting once and the rest is harvest every season.

If you have any land with loamy soil, you can start plantain farming on it and start harvesting cash now. Plantains thrive in tropical regions where the warm temperature, bright sun, and adequate moisture create optimum growing environments.

There is hardly any part of Nigeria that you wouldn’t see plantain growing. That means it can do well on most Nigerian soil.

Cooking bananas are banana cultivars in the genus Musa whose fruits are generally used in cooking. They may be eaten ripe or unripe and are generally starchy.

Many cooking bananas are referred to as plantains or green bananas, although not all of them are true plantains.

Bananas are treated as starchy fruit with a relatively neutral flavor and soft texture when cooked. Bananas fruit all year round, making them a reliable all-season staple food.

Banana Or Plantain?

The term “plantain” is loosely applied to any banana cultivar that is usually cooked before it is eaten. However, there is no botanical distinction between bananas and plantains.

Cooking is also a matter of custom, rather than necessity, for many bananas. In fact, ripe plantains can be eaten raw since their starches are converted to sugars.

In some countries, where only a few cultivars of bananas are consumed, there may be a clear distinction between plantains and bananas.

In other countries, where many cultivars are consumed, there is no distinction in the common names used. In botanical usage, the term “plantain” is used only for true plantains, while other starchy cultivars used for cooking are called “cooking bananas

Did you know that a banana is actually an herb? Yet it is also a fruit. It’s a fruit, as it contains the seeds of the plant. Although, commercially grown bananas are mostly sterile, making the seeds appear as just small, the black specks in the fruit.

But even though the banana plant is commonly referred to as a “banana tree,” it’s technically an herbaceous plant, because the stem has no woody tissue.

This means a banana can also be considered an herb. Whether or not you refer to it as a fruit, herb, or both — the term “banana” refers to the fruits produced by various herbaceous plants in the genus Musa. Although in Western cultures the term is often used to describe the sweet, yellow variety many of us are familiar with. Bananas can be enjoyed both raw and cooked in a variety of dishes, especially desserts. They contain high levels of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

If you’ve ever stumbled across what appears to be a large, green bunch of thick-skinned bananas in your grocery store, make no mistake — those aren’t bananas.

They’re plantains, banana’s starchy cousin that is popular across much of Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean. While they do have a lot in common, these two tropical fruits are not entirely the same.

A plantain is actually a type of banana, but with a different flavor and culinary use. They tend to be larger in size than bananas and have thicker skin. Plantains are also starchier and lower in sugar than bananas.

They range in color from green to yellow to dark brown, depending on their ripeness. Because of the high starch content, plantains aren’t often consumed raw and must be cooked before consumption.

When it comes to cooking, they’re treated more like a vegetable than a fruit, often being used in savory dishes.

Plantains are nutrient-rich, but preparation plays a larger role in their overall health benefits.

Plantain is a type of banana that’s larger in size and has a starchier consistency, which is why it’s not often consumed raw. Although the health benefits of bananas and plantains are largely the same, the ways that they are prepared are not.

Plantain Farming In Nigeria – The Basics

If you don’t want to have a low yield leading to poor sales and income, you need to plant your suckers very close to their optimum time, with the right technique and put them in the right hole size.

This article will provide needed and practical suggestions to avoid that. Now let us discuss those three points – time to plant, hole size, and technique.

  1. Time to Plant

Suckers are planted immediately after field preparation. Plantains can be planted throughout the rainy season. However, you need to give attention to the first 3 to 5 months after planting.

In those periods they need to grow briskly and to achieve that they should be planted when rainfall is very heavy as they need water generously.

Do not wait till the last months of the rainy season as you will have to opt into artificial irrigation so as to maintain the ideal soil moisture content should rain stopped before it matures and that will mean more stress for you.

More information regarding this will be discussed as we proceed. Therefore, planting in the middle of the rainy season is a better suggestion as a high yield of plantains will be produced and sold at off-season which means getting a high profit.

  • Hole Size

Plant holes are prepared with a minimum size of about 30 cm x 30cm x 30 cm square hole (that is the length, breadth and depth). Holes can be dug with a shovel. If you are planting for fruit production it should be spaced about 8 to 10 feet.

  • Technique

Care should be taken to separate the topsoil from the bottom soil. The sucker is placed in the hole and its corm is covered, first with the topsoil and then with the bottom soil.

This is because the topsoil is more fertile than the subsoil and the new sucker requires many nutrients. To supplement the fertility of the topsoil, manure should be mixed with it before being placed in the hole.

In the plant hole, the side of the sucker corm which was formerly attached to the corm of its mother plant is placed against the wall of the hole.

The opposite side of the sucker’s corm is placed towards the middle of the plant hole, where the soil is loose.

Related: How to start plantain chips business in Nigeria

How to Start Plantain Farming In Nigeria

In order to start and maintain successful plantain farming in Nigeria, the following steps, points, and needs should be put in mind and follow through accordingly.

Carry out market survey and research

Depending on the level of your investment, you can engage an expert to help you to write a feasibility note and a business plan.

You can write your business plan yourself by going around asking for information and gathering needed data about plantain farming in Nigeria and its marketability.

It is important to carry out this market survey either by yourself or through a hired personnel.

This will give you comprehensive insights into the business from planting to marketing and your results will better place you on a solid group in the competitive market.

Get good farmland

Loamy soils are the best-producing soils for plantain farming because they contain a good organic to inorganic ratio.

Organic materials, such as decaying plants and insects, provide the soil with air, nutrients, and water-retaining matter.

This combination of ingredients, when combined with mineral particles, allows the soil to remain loose and fertile.

This type of soil is very common in rural areas in the rainforest belt of Nigeria with favorable weather conditions for the growth of plantain.

Since Plantain needs a lot of water in order to have a good yield rain forest and mangrove swamp zones of Nigeria which receive more rainfall than all other climatic zones in the country is an ideal location.

Thick vegetation is an indication that land contains the right soil that is rich enough for the growth of plantain. Good locations like this must have been captured in your research.

However, if you got an averagely good land for farming that is not rich enough with the right kind of soil, you can develop the land before use.

Applying organic manure like chicken manure, cow manure, pig dung, etc. would improve the fertility of the soil. To avoid depletion, it is necessary to provide soils with compost and mulch.

Get Labor

Depending on the size of your farm, you might have to hire laborers to carry out farming activities such as: land preparation, planting of plantain suckers, weeding, and harvesting.

All these could also be done mechanically. If you have a big budget and can afford to set up a large-scale plantation then mechanized farming would be more helpful to you.

Prepare the Farmland

Clear the land by removing unnecessary trees, bushes, stones, stumps, grasses & boulders.

The land should be plough to fit in for any plantation, this is very important to create more space for the plantation.

Land preparation also involves tilling the land and application of manure to improve land fertility (for less fertile land).

You should allow some trees to remain in order to shelter the plants from excessive sun and wind. Plantain plants also grow best in bunches or groups because they protect each other from the harsh rays of the sun.

Install drip irrigation

Drip irrigation or trickle irrigation is the best form of irrigation for plantain farming and indeed most crops especially when the planting is done during the last months of the rainy season.

With drip irrigation, your plantain plants can get water all year round. Imagine, your plantain gets water through irrigation all year round; the yield will be 50-100% more.

The yield can even be more than 100% if you practice fertigation. Fertigation is the act of passing nutrients in form of soluble fertilizers to plants through the drip irrigation system. Fertigation can be applied either you plant when the rainfall is heavy or not.

Get healthy sucker

Considering that a plantain plant is not a tree but a type of herb, it cannot actually be grown from seeds like most trees. Plantain suckers are used to grow new plantain plants.

They are outgrowth (shoot) that develops from the bud at the base or corm of the mother plantain plant. Plantain suckers mostly contain short and narrow leaves on them.

Do not buy plantain suckers that are already infected with diseases.  When you introduce a diseased sucker into your farmland, you can bring new diseases and can be harmful to both your soil and plant.

It is recommended that you buy a clean tissue cultured sucker. A clean tissue cultured sucker is likely to give you increased yield because they do not have any diseases or pests that can impact their growth.

When looking for a plantain sucker for your new plantain plantation, ensure you approach reputable farmers that can supply you with healthy suckers, free of disease and pest damage.

There are three major varieties of plantain suckers: water suckers, maidenhead, and sword sucker.

The water suckers are not so ideal to use for the plantain farming business. They produce a weak plant with low yield of plantain fruits.

To get the best out of your plantation, buy maidenhead or sword suckers. These varieties produce strong plants that are highly resistant to pest attack, have a high level of productivity, and produce healthy fruits.

Once you buy a healthy variety of suckers it would serve you for many years to come. All you need to do is to get suckers from your own plantation.

Plant the suckers

Your plantain suckers should be 4-5 feet long. While planting the suckers, keep a distance of about 8-10 feet before planting the next sucker. Ensure that the soil is moderately wet.

Plantain plant does not grow well in waterlogged areas. When covering the hole you dig, you should not return only the soil to the hole, instead use soil mixed with a lot of manure to fill up the hole.

Nurturing the plant

Weed and other unwanted plants compete for the nutrient of the soil with the plantain plant, therefore constant weeding is required.

You could employ manual labor to help with the wedding or you could make use of chemicals (depends on how large your farm is).

Also, remove suckers from the plant keeping only one or two that have spear-shaped leaves.

The application of fertilizer depends on if you started the plantation on fertile soil.

However, if you must apply fertilizer on your farm make sure it has the right proportion of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen.

The application should be done after 4 to 5 weeks of planting and the weed should be weed out after 1 or 2 weeks of fertilizer application The fertilizer should be placed evenly in a circle that is four to eight feet from the trunk.

The dead plantain leaves when decayed on your farmland can also improve the soil fertility and quality.

Related: How to start poultry farming in Nigeria the right way

Harvesting

Within 8 to 12 months your plantain should be ready to produce, and as one is getting matured for harvest, another one is replacing it, they continue in that circle removing any stress expenses of planting again. All you do is to harvest and reap your profits all year round. Harvesting is done as soon as the plantain starts to ripen but it can also be harvested when they are still unripe especially when there will be days between harvesting and marketing.

Marketing

Start marketing before you even plant. Go around and ask questions about plantain marketing, make contacts with reputable companies that would need it as raw material for their products, and seek partnerships with prospective customers

The demand for plantain is on the increase, there is always a market for the product. You could supply to companies that process plantain into flour, sell in the local market, and even export the farm produce.

The market for plantain in West Africa is very large and increasing. Setting up your own plantain processing plant is another sure and fine way of maximizing profit in the plantain farming business.

Plantain processing can be an added source of making more money. You can process plantain to the following products: Plantain flour, Plantain chips, Plantain porridge etc.

Challenges of Running A Plantain Farm In Nigeria

Plantain farming has its own challenges and it can be prevented as well. It is very important for you to know those challenges involve in plantain farming before you venture into it.

1. Pest and Diseases.

2. Unavailability/Inadequate farmland.

3. Unhealthy suckers.

4. Financial problems.

5. Stealing

5. Storage problems.

Concluding Notes on Plantain Farming In Nigeria

Plantain farming in Nigeria is an easy-to-use start business with lots of mouth-watering benefits. Plantain is one of the most consumed crops in Nigeria.

It is one of the best agribusinesses for Investment. Plantain farm demands care and maintenance. The good thing about this business is that it does not require you to spend much on maintenance.

Also, it sells very fast in markets if you visit any local markets early in the morning, you will see how plantains are being rushed, and in the evening they have been sold out.

Because it can be fried, cooked, or boiled an average Nigerian enjoy it as a food. Go ahead and set up your plantain plantation. There is money waiting to be made in the plantain farming business.

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