Tapping into opportunity in plantain processing
There is already a demand-supply gap of 99,800metric tons (MT) for plantains in Nigeria, which presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs.
A recent plantain report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation puts Nigeria’s plantain flour production at 25, 200 metric tons (MT) and estimated demand at 125,000MT.
This means that currently, there is a 99,800MT demand and supply gap in production, showing a huge potential in the subsector for investments opportunities.
“Plantain business is booming now in Nigeria because there is a strong demand for the flour,” said Adjarho Oghenekaro, national president, Banana and Plantain Farmers Association of Nigeria (BAPFAN) in a telephone response to BusinessDay.
“Processing plantain helps in reducing post-harvest loss of the crop which is currently about 30 percent,” Oghenekaro said.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FOA), Nigeria is world’s fourth largest producer of plantains, with 2.8 million MT annually, behind Ghana with 3.6 million MT, Cameroun with3.5 million MT and Colombia with 3.3million MT.
“I lecture at one of the higher institutions in Ondo State but went into processing plantain when I realised the demand for processed plantain products is becoming huge daily,” said Adekonbi Olufunke, CEO, Providence Plantain Flour.
“The business is lucrative and demand is growing daily both locally and internationally. I am currently registering my business to commence exporting my products next year,” Olufunke said.
She called for funding support for processors of the produce to enable them purchase processing machines and dryers as well as advocacy on health benefits in plantain consumption, noting that some Nigerians still have wrong perception that its consumption is meant for only diabetes patients.
Besides cocoa, cashew and sesame, plantain is another crop in Nigeria that has huge export potential.
Plantain can be eaten raw when ripe, processed into flour to make ‘elubo’, a local meal consumed in Nigeria with soup, and also serves as industrial raw material in firms producing sanitary pads, fabrics and also for the food and beverage industry for making baby foods, biscuits, bread and cakes.
Its nutritional benefits include low-fat, good for blood pressure, a key source of vitamins and minerals, high in fibre and rich in protein. This makes the consumption of plantain a great option for diabetic patients.
Currently, one of the major challenges for plantain farmers and processors is the unavailability of cheap agricultural finance for the subsector and the informal nature of activities in the industry.
“The country is yet to realise the full potential in the production of plantain because activities in the subsector are still largely informal and unregulated. Also, most farmers and processors cannot easily access cheap credit,” Oghenekaro who is also a processor and was earlier quoted, said.
He called for the proper organisation and coordination of activities in the subsector to explore opportunities in plantain production to create jobs and generate income, adding that the industry has the potential of generating $2.5 billion annually from export.
The plantain fruit is an all-year crop but its main seasons are August through December.
It can be grown in 17 states across the country with major production occurring in the humid forest agro-ecological zones such as South-South and South-West. Oyo, Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, Ogun, Taraba, Ekiti, Osun, Cross River and Akwa Ibom account for over 60 percent of Nigeria’s total annual production.