Potato is a popular food crop wherever you go in Nigeria. The same applies to other parts of Africa and beyond. Which type or variety of potato are we talking about? This question immediately comes to mind because there are two major types. They consist of Sweet and Irish Potato. For the purpose of this article, we are focused on the sweet variety of potatoes. Across all regions of Nigeria, people have their peculiar ways of preparing it. However fried potato is a common delicacy in every Nigerian community. In the light of the above, we will discuss how to start commercial sweet potato farming in Nigeria. The profit potential is enormous and opportunities boundless!
Why Sweet Potato?
There is a rising demand for sweet potato among Nigerians. This demand is understandable because people have found more ways of preparing it for food. Another reason is due to its export value. There is a growing call by the government for farmers to embrace agriculture. Agriculturally friendly policies and programs have resulted to provide incentives to farmers. Hence there is no better time to be a potato farmer than now. Domestic demand for this crop alone is huge. This deficit needs to be met if Nigeria must attain food sufficiency.
There is the nutritional angle as well to consider. First of all, it has a rich fibre content. Furthermore, vitamins like Vitamin A, C, E and K are found in good supply. Other nutritional contents include Phosphorus, Riboflavin, Iron and Calcium. Hence this food crop is a good option for farmers to consider. Sweet Potato grows well in the tropics. This makes Nigeria an ideal place for sweet potato farming.
Requirements for Sweet Potato Farming
An obvious requirement for Sweet Potato farming is land. Hence you need to make sure this is in place before giving this a thought. However if you have no land set aside for this, you may need to buy or lease one. It is a fact that this will take up a large part of your expences. Commercial production makes it more more expensive as you will need a larger piece of land. Although this is the case, it doesn’t mean you cannot start with a smaller farmland. Infact land utilization can considerably improve your profits. Therefore you can manage the little land you have to still get bountiful harvest. Sweet Potato are grown through shoots or through its crawling stems.
How to Grow Sweet Potato
Growing Sweet Potato is an easy process if you know what to do. Sweet Potatoes have no seedlings like other crops. Therefore they are grown through shoots obtained from mature Sweet Potato plants. While it is a tuber crop, its step grows in lenght and crawls on the ridge. You can use stilts to act as support for the growing stem. The best soil type for growing this crop are loose and organically rich soils. While it requires adequate water supply, you should avoid water logged areas.
You can till your land through a variety of ways. Hence you can decide whether to make mounds or ridges. As a tuber crop, Sweet Potato requires a soil which is loose and deep enough for it to attain maximum size. This means you will have to make your ridges or mounds higher. This would be higher than those used to plant maize, millet and the likes. Using organic manure is ideal for growing Sweet Potato. This is due to its many benefits, one of which is the improvement of soil structure.
The Planting Process
After making your ridge or mound, the next step is to commence planting. As mentioned earlier, this tuber crop has no seedlings. Sweet potato is grown through stems from mature plants. Dig a hole 10 to 18 inch apart for planting your stems. You can apply compost manure directly into these holes, or do so when making the ridges/mounds. Your fresh Sweet Potato stems should be put into these holes upwards and soil used to cover it. You can apply pressure on the soil with your hands to provide enough support. Most Sweet Potato cultivation is done in the rainy season. However irrigation farming is yet another option to consider.
After planting, you will have to wait 3 to 4 months before it reaches maturity. You can decide to sell directly from your farm or have it harvested and taken to the market. However, value addition is one area you can get more returns. This will require further investment in equipment. You can make them into chips, package them and dispose them. Part of the advantages of value addition is that it increases shelf life. This is in addition to improving the profits you make significantly.