Business Opportunity Opens For Paw-Paw Growers
As the nation’s economic fortune, perennially tied to oil, is dropping almost irreversibly, more people are turning to agriculture. However, the agriculture drive is mainly by private sector organisations and individuals, who are taking the bull by the horns.
They aim at replacing agricultural produce imports that fill modern day superstores with locally grown, value-added alternatives and then angle for the export market as the case may be.
Sola Adeniyi is the promoter of one such organisation known as Natural Nutrient Limited that also runs a training academy – Highhill Agribusiness Academy (HABA Nigeria) with farms at Lala, Ogun State. He added that there is another farm estate at Iwo, Oyo State.
Adeniyi stressed the need to add business to agriculture else it will not meet the expectation of persons in the sector, which is principally to see the money-making side of the venture. With this, Nigerian agri-preneurs would not only be able to provide quality produce to consumers, who may not have access to the big superstores, but can fill orders from known chain stores.
But with the bigger prospect of agriculture providing job opportunities especially for the youth, it becomes necessary to put a finger on the cost of making investment in this area. With growing of this species of paw paw, and being new entrant into the fruiting marketing, Adeniyi stresses it would be important to consider it along with other businesses.
He calls it ‘creating multiple streams of income, because the concept of commercial growing of dwarf Paw paw species is relatively new in the country.’
To start with an acre of land, on the average, Adeniyi says costs between N200,000 – N300,000 in Ogun State, and depending on what alternative chosen, a seed of Red Royale, also called the Thailand dwarf paw paw sells for three naira each, while the seedling N150 per stand.
The planting is not done in single seeds, but in a nursery because they are very fragile. Starting from the seedling has its own advantage that one is buying what is sure since it has sprouted and grown a bit. For the seed directly, one is not sure if it will sprout or not and it would have stayed in the nursery for about one month before ascertaining the viability of the seed.
Planting should be done in the rainy season. However, if it is done in dry season, he says there must be water provided through drip or sprinkler irrigation or a well is dug in the farm. A borehole could serve the purpose as well.
On an acre of land using a 2-by-2 metre spacing, it will take about 700 seedlings and at this rate, it would be totaling N105,000 aside land preparation. The positions for the seedling are dug and when it is done, it is manured with organic fertiliser or poultry droppings.
However, certain levels of labour involve weeding in the farm, from the time the plant is still tender until they grow up. In six months, and at not more than four feet in height, fruiting would have completed and harvesting can be done every other day since it can bear up to 20 fruits on the average per tree at any given time.
The tree can produce steadily for three years; the need for nourishment via organic manure is very essential. The use of poultry waste or liquid organic fertilizer on the plant would be very appropriate.
He advises that the fruit can be waxed locally to keep it in good state of ripeness and firmness for about two weeks. Most of the fruits in big superstores on display are treated with wax to keep it longer on the food shelf. Incidentally, the waxing material is locally available, he reveals.
We set up one for a company in Port Harcourt involved in selling paw paw fruits, labeled and whole. Business must be added to agriculture to make it profitable and training in this area can be arranged.
However, for a fresh set up, there should the acquisition of land to plant the seed. We, as an organisation, have a platform called Youth in Agribusiness Development and Innovation. We teach youths how to turn agriculture to business by being innovative.
For instance, Adeniyi says a young entrepreneur could get small kiosks in various locations that is intended to be the area of marketing coverage. Such kiosks should be branded, perhaps with the name adopted even for the fruit.
These sales kiosks can serve as points to sell fruits and vegetables as a way of doing more of direct sales to reduce the influence of middlemen, who get in the way of these entrepreneurs most of the time.
The challenge facing agriculture has been middlemen and marketing; increasingly entrepreneurs should add value to their produce. For example, he agrees a strategy to clean the fruit very well, label and display them properly on the fruit shelves is a step in the right direction.
“By the time the plants are about three months, the entrepreneur can start creating awareness in the public and arranging the kiosk to attract customers. A handbill for the kiosk outlet could be prepared well in advance of the maturity of the fruit and circulated to prospective customers.
“A sticker on the body of the fruit outlining its nutrient and health benefits would be appropriate, while branded tee-shirts would create uniqueness.”
He added that the promoter of the business could also display the nutritional and eating quality of the product to create market. To help entrants into the business, training from the farm level to the shop can be done on-farm in the Ogun State location.
“From how to get land to its preparation, planting and maintaining crops, pre- and post harvest as well as harvest management are all part of the training we do.
“Adding value to agricultural produce has always been an issue and entrepreneurs can be trained on how to do that,” Adeniyi said.
He advises that young entrepreneurs can start small, like in the backyard as part time, while the person can do other businesses as a matter of multiple stream of income.