Stories by Steve Agbota [email protected] 08033302331
There are immense opportunities within Nigerian agriculture sector and people who take the advantage of such are smiling to the banks frequently with wholesome profits from their various farming businesses.
Today, potatoes business is very lucrative but people are yet to explore the potential despite Nigeria’s favourable climate for the production of the cash crop. This shows that people are not taking their chances to improve their income significantly and even become wealthy with the staple crop.
Though cultivation is not just stimulated by the crop’s various exploits in staple meals, it is also largely motivated by its wide range of uses. Nigeria is regarded as one of the leading producers of sweet potatoes, which is a starchy, tuberous crop.
Aside being a staple crop, potato is also an important source of raw materials for the manufacture of wide range of industrial products including starch, liquid glucose, and ethanol, and can also be used as a substitute for wheat flour in bread and other industrial uses.
Daily Sun learnt that farmers can make millions yearly from potato farming depending on their farm size. The demand for the produce is huge across the world even in Nigeria considering the end products derived from it. The produce is one of the commodities highly patronised in supermarkets and shopping malls, as over 500,000 households consume potato weekly in Nigeria.
The Managing Director of Highhill Agribusiness Development and Incubation Centre (HABDEIC), Mr. Sola Adeniyi, said that sweet potato flour can add natural sweetness, colour and flavour to processed food products. It can also serve as a source of energy, nutrients and minerals, and contributes to the daily nutrient needs for -carotene, thiamin, iron, vitamin C and protein.
Sweet potato made into flour has a high potential for success and can also be used in soups as a thickener for sauces and gravies, and in breeding fish as well as a stabiliser in the ice-cream industry.
Speaking on how potential farmers can start a successful potato farming, he said after acquiring a land, the farmer needs a start-up capital of about N20,000 and take a few steps before venturing into the business.
Planting sweet potatoes: Potential farmers should try and get a portion of land and clear it. After the clearing, the farmer has to wait for rain before making ridges or heaps. But if you have irrigation, then it’s perfect to do at any time.
Another thing to take note of is that potatoes will not do well in a land, other than loamy soil or a land that is not well cultivated.
You can use tractors to plough, harrow and do ridges in order to cultivate the potato vines (stems) and parts of the leaves. Note that the seed can’t be planted like yam, even though it is a tuber crop.
The size of land it can be planted on depends on your capacity as a farmer, and to be candid, potatoes can be planted on a small piece of land for either commercial or subsistence farming.
Spacing: The potatoes should be spaced for up to 12 inches. The soil type, moisture, fertility, harvest size and potato variety is taken into account when arriving at a decision for this phase.
Where to get seed/stem:
Before going into potato farming, new and potential farmers are advised to contact experts who are already successful in the business for more information. Potential farmers are also advised to visit HABDEIC for safe seeds and stems.
Farmers who can’t afford getting tractors to plough and ridge the land may not even have access to large piece of land but they need to employ farm workers who will use cutlass to clear the land area or clear the area by burning it. However, if it is burnt, it should not be that thorough so as not to turn the soil acidic. That is, after burning and you can see reddish particles, it means the land will not do well. Therefore, you will have to mix the soil together. After burning, people use shovel for clearing, and after that your farm workers can use hoes to make ridges.
Seed/stem: Farmers can easily plant potato using the stem. They can make the stem for the planting season by themselves by planting the seeds some time in March of the planting year. Depending on the size of the land, take, for instance, one acre, farmers can plant only 50 seeds and allow them to germinate. When they germinate, they can be used to plant the whole acre for the season. They can start cutting the stems around June/July for proper cultivation. The 50 seeds won’t cost more than N4,000.
Making heaps: In many places like Enugu, Anambra and Benue states, farm workers charge per heap. They make one heap for N5 to N10. You will get about 2,000 heaps in an acre, that will cost at most N10 x 2000 = N20,000.
Planting the stems: Farmers are advised to plant the stems they raised earlier in March of the planting year. Cut off the stems where they are raised and fold up each stem in circular form. Make the bulbs to face up while where the root comes from should be buried in the soil. Do not fully cover the plant at the initial stage. You can also plant another crop like maize or guinea corn beside it.
Weeding/adding manure: Farmers only weed potato farms once the weeds have much sprouted out. They can add any manure of their choice but in most cases, you wouldn’t need to apply any manure if your land is fertile or not in constant use. It will still give good yield. I advice that you locate your farm where the land is still fertile. Most of such places are in rural areas where the cost of living is low. This will also help you save money on farm workers.
Harvesting: Harvesting should be around August/September as it takes only three months for potato to mature.
Storage/sales: After harvesting, farmers can store their sweet potatoes for some time. It’s not advisable to keep potatoes for a long period of time if you don’t have proper storage facility. But you can open the ground under a good shade, cool and water-free area and put the potatoes there. Do not cover with sand; rather cover them with grasses if you must cover them. The market is waiting for you, so you don’t need to waste the time storing them.
According to the agro-ambassador, if everything works out well, farmers are going to get about 30 large bags of potatoes from an acre land and a bag currently sells between N4,000 and N7,000.