Plantain is a staple crop grown throughout the tropics. In Africa, plantain and Banana are also an important source of carbohydrate in the diet of more than 70 million people. Plantain is also an important source of revenue for farmers who produce the crop in small-scale field plantations and Backyards.
Backyard soil is very rich in organic matter and nutrients from household refuse which is dumped there. Such gardens are permanently in use for plantains which grow there luxuriantly, become very large and produce heavy bunches. They grow in groups or clusters as each bearing plant produces many suckers which are not pruned out.
Read Also: Required Spacing for Plantain Cultivation
Human activity is limited to manuring, propping and harvesting. Since the demand and thus the price for this crop are continuously increasing, many farmers want to grow more plantains in order to raise their income.
However, backyards cannot be readily extended since they are enclosed by houses or fences. The only way, therefore, to expand production is to grow plantains in fields at some distance from the village.
In most cases such field-grown plantains are very poorly maintained. The result is a very modest yield from the first year onwards.
Different methods of cultivation should accompany the change in site to achieve and sustain high-level yields for several years.
Plantain farming is a very lucrative business as a bunch of plantain sells between N650 and N1,500 in Nigeria for instance. The beauty of this business is that you can sell it directly to the market people at a higher price.
You can also export it to other countries in Africa and the rest of the world. We will show you how to do this too. But, let’s assume you are selling them here in Nigeria so, we can do a simple calculation:
You planted 800 plantain suckers and you sell them at N1,500 per bunch at maturity, that is N1,200,000. After deducting expenses of about N220,000 you have N980,000 and you harvest every nine months.
The 800 plantain suckers we have used is just an example. Now imagine having a land with 4,000 plantain suckers. Can you see how lucrative this is? The worst case scenario is to sell at N650 per bunch and that will give you N2,600,000 if you plant 4,000 suckers annually.
We discovered that it is good to have a large piece of land like an acre as we also discovered that there are suitable plantain farming places where you can get land for cheap price in Nigeria. You can start with a plot of land and that depends on the capital you have.
We advise that you start with a plot of land and then increase the farming space when you see that your level of income is increasing. Please note that you will not need to buy the suckers anymore because you will be getting them from the ones that grows from your farm onwards. Is this not profitable?
Read Also: Preparing the field for Plantain Cultivation
Unlike starting other tree farms and orchards, starting a plantain farm and growing plantain is easier and less complicated. Although growing plantain still require one’s attention, the level of skill required is not as intensive as other trees.
The first thing to consider in starting a plantain farm is looking for the right climate. Plantain cannot thrive in an environment that is too hot or too cold. The ideal climate for plantain is the tropical climate with temperature ranging from 26 to 30 degrees Celsius. But below 14 degrees, the plantain would die.
Plantain plants also need good irrigation and humidity. A plantain farm must have a good drainage system and a rich, naturally fertilized soil is the ideal for planting it. If such is not available, one can create compost and add chicken or cow manure to make the land fertile.
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 farm.
Read Also: Plantain Fertilizer Application
How to Start a Plantain Farming Business
(1) 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.
(2) 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).
Read Also: Introduction and Morphology of Plantain
(3) 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 which later turn into broadleaf plantain 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.
(4) Get Labor
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.
(5) 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.
Read Also: Managing the fallow period in Plantains
(6) 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.
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