Plantain farming is one of the simplest but also very rewarding ventures to start in Nigeria. It is no news that a lot of households use plantain in their daily meals, however, the Business Day, last year reported that there was a 99,800 metric tons demand-supply gap for plantains in Nigeria alone. This means there is a huge opportunity for plantain farmers to fill this gap. The demand for plantain flour is also through the roof as the same Business Day article reports.
Plantain also has huge export potential, can be eaten raw when ripe, fried to make plantain chips, processed to make plantain flour, serves as industrial raw materials for the creation of sanitary pads, fabrics and also for the food and beverage industry for making baby foods, biscuits, bread and cakes. With all these benefits and opportunities, here are the steps you can take to get into this relatively easy business of plantain farming:
- Prepare your Land: Plantain does best in loamy soil which is prevalent in Edo, Delta, Cross River, Ekiti and Ogun States. These soils contain a good organic to inorganic ratio with organic materials like decaying plants and animals. Prepare the land by clearing the land off bushes, stones, trees and stumps. Note that Plantains do well when they are protected from the sun, so it is better to plant them in clusters where they can protect each other from the sun or leave some of the trees to protect them from excessive sunlight and maintain humidity.
- Get Plantain Suckers: Plantain Suckers are shoots which develop from the bud of the mother plantain plant. They should have small, spear-shaped leaves and are about four feet high. Make sure you approach reputable farmers that can supply you with healthy plantain suckers that are free of diseases. The suckers should be planted two to five meters away from each other. Note that there are 3 types of plantain suckers. They are peeper sucker, maiden sucker, and sword sucker.
- Peeper sucker; is a small sucker emerging from the soil;
- Maiden sucker; is a large sucker with foliage leaves. It is a good planting material as it grows strong, produces great yields and is resistant against pests and diseases.
- Sword sucker is a large sucker with lanceolate l It is the best conventional planting material. It grows strong and produces great yields and is resistant against pests and diseases.
- Planting: Suckers are planted immediately after field Plant holes are prepared with a minimum size of about 30 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm. Care should be taken to separate the topsoil from bottom soil. The sucker is placed in the hole and it is covered, first with the topsoil and then with the bottom soil. The recommended spacing is 3 m between the plantain rows and 2 m within the row (in other words. 3 m x 2 m). An alternative is 2.5 m x 2.5 m. If spaced 3 m x 2 m, 1 hectare should contain 1667 plants, but with a spacing of 2.5 m x 2.5 m, it should contain 1600 plants.
- Weeding and Fertilization: Weeding is important as weeds compete with the plantains for the soil nutrient. Manual labour can be employed or chemicals like Herbicides can be used to control weeds. Also, if you are to apply fertilizers, make sure they have a good dose of potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen (PNK). The fertilizers should be placed in a circle four to eight feet from the trunk and should be applied once a month to stimulate growth.
- Harvesting: In 8-10 months, the plantain fruit will be ready for harvesting. Plantains will always produce more fruits until the harvest season is over.
- Marketability: As stated above, there is still a shortage of supply for the high demand of plantain. After harvest, it can be sold to households, plantain chips firms or plantain flour makers. If you have the capital, you can process it into plantain flour and sell for more profit. Additionally, do not rule out the possibility of trading in the international market.