Bell pepper cultivation…low-hanging fruits farmers could pluck
As the Federal Government intensifies calls for all Nigerians to return to Agriculture, especially to boost the non-oil sector, one of the areas that holds lots of promises, is the cultivation of bell pepper.
Aside its economic importance, bell pepper is embedded with lots of health benefits and many more advantages that had endeared it to many homes.
Bell peppers belong to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants, along with chili pepper, cayenne pepper, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes. Unlike other chili peppers, it has less calories and fats.
It is a rich source of vitamin C, vegetable fiber, provitamin A (beta- carotene) vitamin B6 vitamin E and potassium, calcium, manganese and phytochemicals, such as, lycopene and beta-carotene (the precursor for vitamin A). All these nutrients have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
Though it comes in different varieties, including sweet green peppers, it is available all-year-round, but most abundant and tasty during the months of August and September.
The President/Executive Secretary, Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (AFGEAN), Adetiloye Aiyeola, said based on its benefits, the variety of pepper is becoming more popular for shoppers because of its potential and the increasing demands.
“Also expatriate communities in Nigeria – Indians, Chinese and the Europeans use bell pepper in their cookings and so the demand is also increasing in that angle.”
Reports have it that the bell pepper can be eaten raw in salad, as it provides maximum nutritional benefits. It can also be roasted, just as the sweet green variety is used in cooking a variety of culinary recipes. For the preparation of salad, both green and red peppers add colourful appetising beauty to any type of salad.
Aside its cooking benefits, bell pepper is said to contain antioxidant vitamins that block the activity of other chemicals known as free radicals that have potentials to cause cancer.
Consumption of bell pepper is recommended for those willing to prevent and reduce the incidence of cancer (stomach and colon cancer).
Due to its low carbohydrate or calories and fat and high in fiber, it prevents obesity. It also cures/prevents constipation, good for people suffering from Type 2 diabetes mellitus (excess sugar in the body), boosts immunity, and reduces risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Adetiloye reveals that the produce holds lots of promises for farmers and the country, noting that a farmer can realise an average of N1.4m on a tonne of the bell pepper for export.
He said: “Fast food chains are springing up that are appealing to more middle-class people, especially the working class and bell pepper is a major ingredient for most of the continental dishes that are being served.
“Apart from that, bell pepper appears to feature in most restaurants, supermarkets. The pepper is becoming more popular item for shoppers because there’s a lot of potential for it and the demands is increasing.”
Adetiloye said in Lagos alone, more than 40 metric tonnes of the bell pepper are consumed daily, saying the development is an indication that the demand for the pepper is very high and more farmers will need to go into its cultivation to match supply.
“It gives farmers value. A tonne of bell pepper on an average is between N1.4m and N1.6m (N1, 400 to N1, 600 per kilogram), compared to most crops, it is very profitable. For instance, the price of maize per tonne is around N200, 000, jute leaves (ewedu) per tonne is around N400, 000 to N500, 000, tomato is probably around N300, 000 per tonne, but bell pepper is N1.4m per tonne.
“The export potential for bell pepper is significantly high. Our diaspora market is increasing significantly because of the wave of migration out of the country and export, especially to Europe, United Kingdom and the United States is very high.
“Revenue to farmers – a farmer is poised to make between N2m to N2.5m per tonnage on the export of the bell pepper. An ideal shipment should be about between 20 tonnes to 40 tonnes per shipment because it has to be some significant number.”
He noted that AFGEAN, as part of its mandate, is promoting horticultural produce out of the country. “Bell pepper is not in the mainstream yet, even the larger population has not tapped into it. You can find out that more than 80 per cent of Lagosians does not even know what bell pepper is, so its consumption in the state is just about 10 per cent.”
The CEO/Founder, Pepperest Limited, Oluwatosin Johnson, who told The Guardian that bell pepper can be planted in every part of the country, said potential farmers require to know what it entails before delving into the type of farming.
“The first thing I’ll advice is education. Potential farmers should endeavor to know what it entails, in terms of seedlings, the farm – the nature of the soil and the market requirements. So, if you can put together enough capital, I think that’ll be a good start.
“The bell pepper can be planted in any part of the country, but we run a greenhouse farm and we control the environment of the pepper, that’s why its capital intensive. You can plant it anywhere, but there are times of the year that you can plant it if you are not using greenhouse. We use greenhouse, so we plant year-round.”
While confirming that bell pepper cultivation is profitable, she said: “You know agriculture is a good idea and bell pepper is a luxurious product, so the demography of people that purchases are those running restaurants, foreigners and people who are very health conscious, people who are not afraid to spend money. Bell pepper farming is very viable.
“Bell pepper farming is profitable, my advice to potential farmers is to get enough education. I am not talking about being literate or illiterate, get education in what it entails to grow bell pepper before you get into it,” Johnson said.