Plantain business booms on value addition, high demand

…as farm gate prices down 42% …farmers record bumper harvest

The plantain business in Nigeria is thriving and gaining momentum, aided by value addition and high demand for easy and convenient snacks made from the produce.

“The plantain business is booming now in Nigeria because there is a strong demand for the snacks. Lots of youths are processing it into flour and making spicy chips for local and export markets in Europe and America,” said Adjarho Oghenekaro, national president, Banana and Plantain Farmers Association of Nigeria (BAPFAN) in a telephone response to BusinessDay.

“Before now, we lose about 30 percent of what is produced since plantain is highly perishable. But with high demand and value addition of the starchy vegetable, our post-harvest losses have reduced drastically,” Oghenekaro said.

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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 investment opportunities.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FOA), Nigeria is Nigeria fourth largest producer of plantain with 2.8 million metric tons per annum 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 the support of processors of the produce with cheap agro finance 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 potentials.

Plantain can be eaten raw when ripe, processed into flour to make ‘elubo’ local recipe consumed in Nigeria with soup and also serves as industrial raw materials 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 includes low-fat which is 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.

“We had a bumper harvest this year. Prices have dropped to as low as N4, 000 per dozen (12 plantain bunches) for big sizes at the farm gate compared to N7,000 sold last year,” said Lawrence Afere a plantain farmer in Ondo state who spoke to BusinessDay from his farm in Ilado village.

“I currently supply my plantains to some processors who are processing it into flour and making chips from it. Now you would see a lot of youths are creating employment for themselves through the potential in the industry,” Afere explained.

“The fruit is an all year crop but gets cheaper during August through December and expensive during March through May,” he added.

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 credits,” 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 while 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.
Plantain can be grown in 17 states across the country with major production occurring in the humid forest agro-ecological zones which aligns with the South-South and South-West. Oyo, Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, Taraba, Ekiti, Osun, Cross River  and Akwa Ibom accounts for over 60 percent of Nigeria’s total annual production.