How To Start Up A Lucrative Plantain Farming In South Africa – A Step By Step Approach:
I recently had a chat with an old time friend. He has a plantain plantation farm which has been the main source of his livelihood. Apparently you could buy plantain sucker at just #150 per sucker. 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.
Plantain is one of the most common staple foods mostly grown in the tropical regions of Nigeria and West Africa.
In Nigeria, plantain is a special delicacy prepared by frying, boiling, steaming or made into plantain chips. Recently, plantain has been processed into flour which is gradually substituting the use of wheat flour due to its superior nutritional value. Plantain flour is also exported from Nigeria to other countries of the world.
To Start a Plantain Farming (Plantain Plantation) business:
GET A LAND
The first step in starting a plantain farm is acquiring a farmland. To be successful in this business any farmland you select should have the right type of soil and located in an area with favorable weather condition for the growth of plantain.
Plantain plants do best in loamy soil, the soil should contain enough organic matter with moderate moisture content. In Nigeria the areas with the highest number of plantain plantation include: Edo, Delta, Cross river, Ekiti, Ogun, and other states in the tropics.
If the land you intend to use for your plantain farm is not rich enough with the right kind of soil, you have an option to develop the land before use. Applying organic manure like chicken manure, cow manure, etc. would improve the fertility of the soil.
While selecting a land to set up your plantain plantation watch out for a land with thick vegetation. Thick vegetation is an indication that a land contains the right soil that is rich enough for the growth of plantain.
PREPARE THE LAND/SOIL
After acquiring a land for the plantation you will need to carry out land preparation activities on the land. These activities include clearing the land of bushes, trees, stones, stumps, etc. Land preparation also involves tilling the land and application of manure to improve land fertility (for less fertile land).
You may choose to use manual labor or use machines to prepare the land for planting (depending on the scale of business you intend to operate).
BUY HEALTHY PLANTAIN SUCKERS
Plantain suckers are used to grow new plantain plants. They are outgrowth (shoot) which develop from the bud at the base or corm of the mother plantain plant. Plantain suckers mostly contain short and narrow leafs on them.
When looking for 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 plantain farming business. They produce weak plant with low yield of plantain fruits.
To get the best out of your plantation, buy maidenhead or sword suckers. This varieties produce strong plants that are highly resistant to pest attack, have a high level of productivity, and produce healthy fruits.
Plantain suckers sell for as low as #80 in some places and as high as #150 in others, depending on your location. Most local farmers would give an attractive discount to any buyer buying in bulk. 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.
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.
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.
WEEDING AND FERTILIZER APPLICATION
Weed and other unwanted plant 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 weeding or you could make use of chemicals (depends on how large your farm is).
Application of fertilizer depends on if you started the plantation on a fertile soil. However, if you must apply fertilizer on your farm make sure it has the right proportion of potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. You could also till the dead plantain leaves to the ground to improve soil fertility.
The plantain fruits would be ready for harvest after about 8-10 months. Once the harvest season begins the plant will continue to produce more fruits till the season is over. Harvesting is done as soon as the plantain starts to ripen.
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.
Another secret cash machine that people tend to ignore is plantain farming in Nigeria. We want to look into it today to see how it works. Plantain is very easy to cultivate and maintain unlike other cash crops that requires so much time and money to maintain.
This is a low capital agribusiness and almost every Nigerian soil is good for plantain plantation as experience has shown. Therefore, if you have any land with loamy soil, you can start plantain farming on it and start harvesting cash now.
Plantain is a staple food that is very popular in the tropical regions. It is the tenth most important foot staple that feed people of all race around the world. Plantain is treated in much the same way as potatoes and it comes with similar natural flavor and texture when the unripe fruit is cooked by steaming, boiling or frying.
Plantain fruits all year round, which makes the crop a more reliable all-season staple food, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria with inadequate food storage, preservation technology and transportation. In Africa, plantains and bananas provide more than 25 percent of the carbohydrate requirements for over 700 million people.
plantains, thrive in tropical regions where the warm temperature, bright sun and adequate moisture create optimum growing environments. Tropical soils, however, are not always suitable for plantain production.
Tropical regions of the world, including the plantain producing regions of southeastern Nigeria, often exhibit soils that are nutrient poor, that’s what scientist says but experience has proved contrary as you can see. There is hardly any part of Nigeria that you wouldn’t see plantain growing. That means it can do well on most Nigerian soil.
What You Need To Start Plantain Farming
To cultivate plantain plantation, you will need the following
1. Land With Good Soil
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 soil with air, nutrients and water-retaining matter. This combination of ingredients, when combined with mineral particles, allows soil to remain loose and fertile.
In tropical rain forests part of Nigeria, organically rich soils are shallow. Plantains will thrive for one to three years but then die back because the layer of organic matter is easily depleted. To avoid depletion, it is necessary to provide soils with compost and mulch.
2. Prepare The Soil
Clear the land and cut some of the trees if any, Plantain plants also grow best in bunches or groups because they protect each other from the harsh rays of the sun. It is important to create an environment where the plantain plants are sheltered either because they are bunched up together or there are other trees to protect them.
It is important to maintain the humidity of the plantain plantation by allowing some of the trees to remain for the purpose of protecting the plant from excessive sun and to enhance the humidity. This is very essential in plantain farming environment.
3. Get The Plantain Suckers
Considering that a plantain plant is not a tree but a type of herb, they cannot actually be grown from seeds like most trees. Plantain plants are grown through suckers. Suckers are those that grow from a dying, mature plantain plant that can be
transplanted and re-grown. They may be considered as baby plants that are used to start new plantain plants. Choose suckers from plants that are vigorous. They should have small, spear shaped leaves and are about four feet high.
There is a corm at the bottom of each mature plantain tree. In transplanting a sucker, it is necessary to cut downwards and get as much corm and root as possible. Plant these and cut or decapitate the sucker to facilitate good evaporation. Keep around two to five meters between planted suckers. In the early days of your plant, keep them moist but not too wet as they don’t have leaves yet to evaporate the water.
4. Control The Weeds
The weeds control is very important if you want your plantain to do well, the cost of weed management could account for up to. 45% of the total cost of plantain plantation management in Nigeria. Use traditional weed control of employing laborer to do the weed cutting.
As the plantain grows, it is important to protect it from strong winds. It is also important to keep it well watered. One can also sprinkle fertilizers every now and then but mostly throwing the plantain dead leaves back into the plant is enough to sustain the rich quality of the soil.
Unlike other trees, plantain do not need complicated pruning. Just remove dead leaves and dead plants near the plantain. Also remove suckers from the plant keeping only one or two that have spear shaped leaves.
If you must use a fertilizer, Use an NPK fertilizer, or a fertilizer mixed with nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Fertilizing the plantains once a month will stimulate growth. The fertilizer should be placed evenly in a circle that is four to eight feet from the trunk.
Within 8-10months 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. The same thing apply to Banana.