By Steve Agbota
NIGERIA’S domestic production of soybeans is no doubt trending upwards but there is still a shortfall in supply to demand due to heavy usage of the commodity by the livestock industry. With rising demand in the poultry industry, and for human food formulations, it is estimated that farmers can earn over N400 billion from the commodity.
Soybeans crushers in the country are operating below capacity and are unable to satisfy the rising demand for soybeans meal and oil. Growing commercial utilisation of soybeans in human food and animal feed sectors has created domestic supply gap leaving massive opportunities for investments in production of the commodity.
In Nigeria, soybeans cultivation starts May/June with land clearing and harvesting normally occurs in late October through November every year.
The crop is harvested three to four months after planting, depending on the time of sowing and seed variety. Benue State was said to be the dominant soybeans producing area but several other states in the North and Middle Belt also produce soybeans.
However, states in the Southwest and Southeast can also produce soybeans when rains have reduced significantly. Coordinator, Community of Agricultural Stakeholders of Nigeria (CASON), Sotonye Anga, last year said the demand for soybeans in Nigeria was about N300 billion.
In addition, Nigeria has been producing only 25 per cent of its annual soybeans demand leaving a gap of about 75per cent.
The demand for soybeans is high because of the significant health benefits, which include the ability to improve the metabolism, help people gain weight in a healthy way, protect heart health, defend against cancer, reduces the effects of menopause, improve digestive health, promotes bone health, protects against birth defects, increase circulation, decreases the risk of diabetes and generally tone up the body.
Soybeans is high in protein and is used as a vegetarian and lactose alternative for many foods, and also a species of legume that have become one of the most widely consumed foods in the world. They are extremely useful for human health and are easy to cultivate as well.
The owner of Almofs Farm, Oladimeji Gideon, said that direct human consumption of soybeans and its usage as animal feeds are also very significant in Nigeria, especially among rural low-income groups that cannot really afford other animal protein sources.
He added that government needs to support soybeans farmers by developing seedlings that are pest-resistant, giving farmers right inputs at subsidised rates. He said by doing this, farmers can produce up to one million tonnes of soybeans annually if not more.
According to him, many farmers in Nigeria are yet to tap into soybeans’ commercial usage and opportunity in its supply, adding that some companies are now using the commodity for energy drinks, which also resulted to its high demand in the market.
Said he: “One of the reasons soybeans is so widely cultivated is because it contains more protein per acre of land than any other crop. It grows up to two meters in height and is also a green, low-lying plant. Soybeans proteins are so universally useful that this small, unassuming bean has become globally significant.