Plantain farming As a Lucrative Business
According to Shelu Abu, upon graduation from the Nasarawa State College of Agriculture where he studied Agronomy, he began buying and selling in Kano before moving down to Lagos.
“I relocated to Lagos and would bring tomatoes and other commodities from the north to Mile12 market in Lagos. I was searching for employment at the same time,” he said.
Going to Cameroun:
“One day, a friend of mine suggested we travel to Cameroun and from there, I could sneak into any country of my choice because I had no money then. When we got to Cameroun, I saw a farm close to where we were staying. I decided to apply for a job there since I studied agronomy. Fortunately, I was employed. What we do is that we plant the plantain suckers and when we harvest, they are taken to a production site where they are prepared for export to Europe and America. Before they finish packaging, buyers are already waiting to pick them up and I saw the kind of money coming in. We had about 300,000 suckers which multiplied. We were well paid so I told myself that the best thing is for me to go back to Nigeria and start my own farm.”
Starting his own farm: “When I came back, I leased a plot of land and planted the 200 suckers I brought with me. People were mocking me, asking what on earth I was doing with plantain instead of getting a good job. After about eight months, I started harvesting. My plantain trees are up to 18 feet high; they are so tall because of the nutrients and the taller they are, the bigger the fruit,” he said, adding: “I was making N7,000 to N8,000 weekly.
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“When I told the Baale (traditional ruler) of the area that I needed land for plantain farming, he pointed to this place (farm site) which was a thick forest then. He asked for only N5,000 and a bottle of Schnapps. So I told myself that I could plant 1,000 suckers or more, to multiply my income. I placed an order for 5,000 suckers and planted them. Before this time, I had approached First Bank for loan. I discussed with them but they asked for land or C of O. If I have all that, why would I go to the bank to ask for loan?
It will be better to sell the land and use the money on the farm. If I have money, instead of using it to get C of O, I will put it in the farm. That is why I don’t bank with any bank in Nigeria. I save my money with my cooperative society because when I sold the idea to them, they bought it and came to my aid. I brought First Bank here and explained to them that I have 40,000 suckers on the farm and even if I sell for N500, I will make the money and pay back.”
When the bank refused, Shelu approached his cooperative group. “They provided the money and we were able to plant 40,000 suckers on that land. When the plantain was six months old, I called the cooperative members and said ‘look, there is war.’ When they came and saw the farm and the fruits, I told them the best thing is for us to buy the land. We discussed with the owners and they sold to us. The cooperative paid and kept the document thinking I would not be able to pay. But as I sold my plantain, I paid into their account and to God be the glory, I was able to offset the loan and I have 40 acres of land today.”
Modern technique: “Plantain farming is good, anybody that goes into it will not have any problem because one, you don’t weed, you use herbicides and harvesting is not stressful. Before it matures, buyers are already waiting. If you plant 60,000 suckers, you will be making about N800,000 weekly.
“Since I started harvesting, I have created a lot of employment for women in this area. I have set up farms in various places so I can tell you that plantain farming is very lucrative.
For instance, if you plant 1,000 suckers, in your first harvest, you will get your money back and make profit.
After four months, you come back to the same place and still harvest more.
The second harvest might even be better than the first because it might be two or three as the trees would have multiplied to about 3,000. So even if you spent N1,000 setting up a plantain farm, I can assure you that within a year and six months, you will make N4,000.
“That is why I say it is very profitable and the production is very easy. Just get the hybrid from our farm, use your herbicide and insecticide, then apply your chicken waste. The fertilizer is short-term, it is just to create a foundation for the tree to be rooted and move up, the chicken waste is long-term.
Nutrients must be replenished after each harvest otherwise, growth and production will be affected.”
“Our government needs to support real farmers. They need to select farmers that have passion, vision and can see the future of farming in Nigeria, not the two bags of fertilizer or one bag of maize they distribute to farmers. I have about 40 acres of land, what will two bags of fertilizer do for me? The best thing is for government to bring back the Bank of Agriculture. My vision is to go for 120,000 suckers because I know I can. I have the suckers and the land, the only problem is fertilizer and funds for other inputs. Funding is what is breaking farmers down,” he said.
Bringing youths into farming:
“No youth who has been taught how to set up a plantain farm will like to leave it because of the money involved. I have set up farms for about seven graduates and they are smiling to the bank. “A woman was sacked from her banking job and she was lamenting, not knowing what to do. I advised her to go into plantain farming. I got land for her, planted 5,000 suckers and today, she is smiling to the bank. Even if she sells for N500, multiply that by 5,000, you get N2.5million.”