The farmers recently got a boost from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the nation’s apex bank shortlisted 600 of them for its agricultural loan scheme
Felix Ikem, Nsukka
The yellow species of pepper popularly called ‘Ose Nsukka’ (Nsukka pepper) in Igbo, essentially used for spicing of food is a major means of livelihood for many in the northern zone of Enugu State.
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It is believed that the specie can only grow on Nsukka soil. For this reason, hundreds of farmers in the area have continued to channel their resources to the crop, thereby making fortunes out of it as the Nsukka yellow pepper is so much sought after, attracting buyers from every part of the country.
The farmers recently got a boost from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the nation’s apex bank shortlisted 600 of them for its agricultural loan scheme setting the stage for the emergence of new set of millionaires from the area.
Director General, Nsukka Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NCCIMA), Mr. Dan Oche, at a meeting with farmers in Nsukka, said the aim was to produce the yellow pepper in commercial quantity in which about 80 per cent of it would be exported to Europe and America.
“Each of the 600 farmers screened and shortlisted by the CBN will have his or her account credited with N900,000 after the training programme by the bank without any collateral,” he said.
He disclosed that the chamber had acquired several hectares of land in Uzowani Local Government Area, and each of the 600 farmers will be given a hectare to cultivate the yellow pepper.
The NCCIMA boss explained that the chamber acquired the land to enable it monitor the farmers for them to repay the loan at the agreed time because the chamber is their guarantee.
“This empowerment will create employments as each farmer is expected to employ at least three persons that will assist him or her since the farmer alone will not be able to farm one hectare of land (12 plots),” Oche stated.
Daily Sun gathered that more than 30 farmers who applied for the loan were not shortlisted because they either did not have Bank Verification Number (BVN) or the ones they submitted were incorrect.
Oche said the bank would this week commence training of beneficiaries on entrepreneurship, good agriculture practices and financial literacy and urged them to give the training the highest attention it deserved as it would go a long way to contribute to their success in farming.
“My advice to beneficiaries is to see this opportunity as a lifeline that will catapult them to the next level in life,” he charged.
Daily Sun visited Ikpa commodity market Nsukka where the yellow pepper is sold and packaged for an onward transport to cities like Port Harcourt, Lagos, Kaduna, Abuja and others. Chairman of the Ikpa market yellow pepper dealers association, Lagos line, Mr. Lucky Eze who hails from Uzowani Local Government Area, described the Nsukka yellow pepper as simply the best, given that “people from different parts of Nigeria despite the perishable nature of the pepper still travel from far distances to buy the pepper down here in Nsukka”.
Eze, who has been in the business for the past 20years said that Ose Nsukka’s aroma is special and cannot be compared to any.
“You can get yellow pepper in Jos or any other place, but you will never get the same flavour you get in Nsukka yellow pepper from any other pepper; and that is why the yellow pepper is sought most,” he said.
He said the price varies from time to time, but currently a bag sells for between N10,000 and N15,000 while a particular tin measurement goes for about N1,000.
Ogbu Obinna, a graduate yellow pepper farmer said: “Ose Nsukka farming is a good business that requires commitment and resources. One needs a large expanse of land to do the farming. I started the yellow pepper farming four years ago, when I finished my National Youth Service Corps and retuned home without having any tangible work at hand. So, I took N500,000 loan from a bank to start up the farming. Today, I have made lots of progress in the pepper farming business and have since paid back the loan. The profit from the business has made me a complete man. I’m happily married, I have a car and currently, I’m building a two storey house.”
He dispelled the belief that the species cannot grow in any other part of the country.
“Nsukka soil is very rich for the yellow pepper farming. The pepper can grow in any other soil but it will not do well like it does in Nsukka.” Ogbu, an alumnus of the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu advised youth to think more of farming business since the white collar job was not forthcoming.
“It is unfortunate that most of the youths; especially graduates today, are not interested in the yellow pepper business simply because the process has to do with farming,” he lamented.
Explaining the processes of cultivation of the pepper, Makata Ngozi who doubled as a yellow pepper farmer and marketer said during the month of November, they will do ridges and nursery and by February, the cultivation will kick off. You must monitor your farm as the pepper grows, we apply manure and fertiliser when necessary, weed off the unwanted grass in the farm.”
On why Nsukka is the only place this special yellow pepper thrives, Ngozi replied: “God made it so. It is one of the many things God used to bless Nsukka land. It’s the pride of Nsukka people, and we are reaping the benefit from it. We know that many farmers in others parts of the country are currently trying hard to make sure that the pepper grows and yields very well in their places.”
However, until that happens, the business of Nsukka yellow pepper will continued to grow in leaps and bounds even as many families rely heavily on it for sustenance and major projects.