Stories by Steve Agbota

Cash crops have been creating millionaires, jobs and sustaining the economy of many nation around the world, just as coconut represents golden chance for Nigeria to rake in over $2.5billion annually.
However, some cash crops in the country like cocoa, cashew, soybeans and others have also penetrated international markets, where the demand for these crops are huge. But unfortunately, coconut value chain remains untapped in the country.
Booming global demand for coconut water, oil and other bi-products is a significant opportunity for the crop to boost exports and job creation.
Recently, the Chairman of Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), Mr. Sani Dangote, said Nigeria was losing $1billion yearly from untapped potential in coconut business. He said the losses came because the country was neither developing coconut value chain for domestic use nor exporting it to meet global demand.
He said the potential of the coconut industry to improve the country’s economy and lift coconut farmers from poverty has not yet been fully maximised.
The coconut industry in Lagos alone has huge potential that can contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but needed investment to improve yield, including using hybrid varieties of seeds. On how to become a successful coconut farmer, the Deputy Managing  Director of Peniel Gerar International Limited, Ojiefoh  Enahoro Martins, said that the potential in coconut farming is huge as export  market  for the product is increasing  every  day. He said potential farmers and investors should consider some factors before venturing into the coconut farming business.
He said coconut needs rainfall level of between 1000 mm. to 3000 mm., 2000 ft and 70 per cent of air moisture, good draining facility, sandy soil rich in humus content, in depth of 3 mts. and soil PH from 6 to 7. He explained that coconut  requires temperature from 27˚ Celsius to 36˚ and the tree needs sunlight most but day and night temperature variation at 5˚ Celsius.
Cost of setting up coconut plantation
He said the cost to set up a coconut plantation would obviously vary according to location. The key variables are usually tied to the land (eg. terrain and contour, soil type) and also farm input costs (eg. labour costs, fertilizer prices, planting material costs). Thus, the following costings should be taken only as an approximation to the costs of starting a coconut plantation: Cost of  land per hectare N5000, cost of  labour N30,000, cost planting,  digging  and covering  per hole N60, cost of  coconut  seedlings for planting in Nigeria   N100 per one and weeding  for the  first three months N5000.
Land spacing, lifespan
For one acre 25 feet by 25feet spacing, he said, it is recommended to grow 70 trees per acre.
Generally, he said a square system of planting is preferred  in West Africa, with a spacing of 7.5 x 7.5 metres, which will accommodate 178 coconut palms per one hectare. However, a spacing of seven to 10 metres is practised in many coconut farms, and the best planting  season  is between April and May. The harvest and fruiting  strength  is more 30  years.
Numbers of coconut on a tree
He said that the coconut hybrids can give 250 coconuts per tree per year, leading to annual production of one to 17,000 coconuts per acre, approximately 500 million of water while  it gives 200 nuts per tree, which means about 3 ½ tonnes per acre and it gives about 60 per cent of oil. “I advised  farmers can do inter-cropping for first three years, but also plant crops like legumes that should be smaller in size. I also recommend  the use  of hybrid coconut. The main advantage of hybrid plants is that they start flowering from the second year, by third year all the trees will come to flowering stage and from the fourth year all the trees will start to give the yield.”
Where potential farmers can get supports
He said that anybody who wants to venture into coconut farming should approach Nigeria  Seed Council, Ministry  of Agriculture and Rural Development and Bank of Agriculture (BoA). These are the bodies that can give required support.
According to him, though many varieties of coconut exist, Western Tall, Tall X Dwarf types of trees are planted for nuts and oil.
Dwarf varieties like Savukot, MalaionEllo Orange and Savukot Green are planted for tender coconut. For big nuts Yazpanam trees and for more nuts Ayiram Kaichi trees are suitable. Likewise Latchaganga released by Central Plantation Coconut Research Institute at India and Philippines is a good yielding avariety. VHC3 variety released by Tamil Nadu Agriculture University in the year 2000 is a high yielding variety. He added: Tall hybrids and dwarf are  the major  varieties  we have in Nigeria.
States where  coconut can grow
He explained that in Nigeria, the leading producing states out of the 20  are Niger, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara,Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna, Adamawa, Yobe, Borno, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, Bauchi, Lagos and Ogun states. He explained: “The market for coconut  is still 100 per cent viable  for investment. We are tapping  into this goldmine-like opportunity. Next year, we are set to  launch 2000  coconut  estate phase one in Edo state and our target  is the US coconut  oil  production  market.”
On the possibility of coconut estate in Nigeria
Said he: “We can have coconut  estate in Nigeria  and make millions without  stress. The opportunities  in coconut  business  is still 95 per cent untapped. Why I encourage  investors  to  go into  coconut  farming is that the market  demand is high  both locally and internationally and return  on  investment  is 80 per cent minimum, while the risk is about one per cent. “At this instance I would also like to put forth the idea that the scientists should apply their education and make strenuous efforts in innovating new methods of coconut crop cultivation, for enhancing the standard of living of the farmers and lead the nation to a greater development”.
Coconut oil is one of the by-products ofthe fruit and is seen as having a variety of applications in beauty, health, and cooking.
Coconut is a very versatile useful plant with a wide range of products being sourced from it. Coconut products are used to make everything from clothing to animal feed to beauty creams. Its kernel is harvested for its edible flesh and delicious water, while its husk is used for its strong fibers.
Most importantly, however, are its oils, which are extracted, processed, and marketed for culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic uses alike.
Typically, the flesh is first dried down to six per cent moisture to make copra. This product is then hauled to factories across the world where it is manufactured into oil. Less widely used, but more valuable, “virgin” coconut oil is directly extracted from raw coconut.

N700bn poultry products smuggled into Nigeria yearly –PAN

In preparation for its 2016 National Poultry Show in Abeokuta, the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) has lamented the influx of smuggled chicken into Nigerian market, estimated at N700 billion annually.
According to the National President of the association, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, smuggling of poultry products into Nigeria, is a major challenge killing the sector.
Oduntan who spoke at a press conference in Lagos, to announce the National Poultry Show, holding between November 29 and 30 in Abeokuta, with the theme “Sustaining the Poultry Industry in an Economic Recession”, said that Customs Service is working daily to see that the figure and amount spent on smuggling of chicken reduces.
He said that the eradication of imported poultry products in Nigeria would create hundreds of billions in the economy in revenue and create 1 million employment opportunities within 2 years. He said that government is trying in terms of support but it needs do more.
However, he emphasised that there is a vast array of employment opportunities lying within the poultry value chain, adding that the government and people must take it seriously to ensure that it is not only sustained but also made to grow, as agriculture is truly the future of the nation’s economy.
Speaking on the importance of the poultry show, Oduntsn said: “The show takes place yearly to showcase businesses within the poultry value chain. The show is organised in furtherance of the activities making up the poultry industry calendar, which usually commences with a summit at the start of the year before the poultry show.
On who should attend, the Chairman, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, Pastor Bode Adetoyi, said all businesses within the poultry value chain including poultry farmers, feed millers, egg and chicken sellers, financial and governmental organizations and those involved in transportation within the poultry value chain will benefit greatly from the Show. There will be exhibitors from Nigeria, Netherlands, Chine, India, Israel, Spain and England.
The President then called out yet again to concerned government bodies, poultry farmers, traders, supermarkets, distributors, packaging manufacturers, investors, international agriculture bodies and all businesses within the Poultry value chain to make it a date to visit the Poultry Show.

Related News – new way to partner farmers with online technology, Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform is offering a new way for Nigerians to participate in agriculture using their online technology.
By partnering Farmcrowdy to own a minimum farm space, it is now possible for Nigerians across the world to commit an agreed sum to starting and completing a farming cycle. In doing so, the farm partner is able to sponsor a farmer in one farming cycle thereby empowering him to expand his farm operations, participating in the drive to end food scarcity and making use of 50 million hectares of arable farm land in Nigeria currently under-utilised according to the World Bank.
The platform allows Farms Partners to sponsor any farm of their choice including maize farms, poultry (Broiler) farms, cassava farms and tomato Farms. The Farm Partners then get bi-weekly updates about their farm progress including pictures and videos from the farmers.
Also, Farm Partners can visit their farms if they wish to at any point in time learn about the farmer they’ve partnered with and the farm products they are working on.
Onyeka Akumah, who is the Co-Founder and CEO of, disclosed that the company has acquired “Over 1,000 hectares of farmland in the South-Western part of Nigeria especially in Oyo and Ogun states as we launch this initiative.
“With one farmer working on one hectare per season, this means that we have provided a platform to engage a minimum of 1,000 farmers with Farmcrowdy. Our goal is to secure 10,000 hectares around the eastern parts of Nigeria and the LAKAJI Corridor in order to make use of Dams and Irrigation facilities in these areas.”
He further explained that the launch of Farmcrowdy’s website and platform was brought forth out of a need to engage Nigerians especially youths in Agriculture, empower small-scale farmers and increase food production to keep up with the growing Nigerian population.
Onyeka said: “According to a UN research, crop yields need to double within 40 years in order to keep up with the world population growth. For this to happen, it is important to create an efficient farming industry that operates on a large scale so that our food can be saved and our economy can rapidly progress. This revelation has prompted Farmcrowdy to join the farming industry through its Agric-Tech Start-up which makes use of technology to execute agriculture.”
Farmcrowdy boast of an experienced team including it’s second Co-Founder and COO – Mr. Africanfarmer Mogaji who has over 19 years of experience both in the livestock and crop production industry within and outside Nigeria. Described by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as a‘Champion for Change’, Africanfarmer Mogaji before Farmcrowdy, was the CEO of X-Ray Farms Consulting – a new generation agricultural expert, coach and consultant.
Operating in Agric-tech space, Farmcrowdy is here to bring the best out of the resources available in Nigeria so that Nigeria can increase the production of agricultural raw materials to meet the growth of an expanding industrial sector, reduce poverty and unemployment, offer returns on investment for Farm Owners and Farm Partners while proffering a win-win solution for everyone.

Flour millers donate seedlings, equipment to wheat farmers

Flour Milling Association of Nigeria (FMAN), at a meeting in Kano, demonstrated its support for the accelerated local production of wheat in Nigeria by donating 2,500 units of three-inch water pumps and 2,500 units of plantable seeds in 50kg bags worth about N150 million to Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN).
The donation was in fulfilment of promises made at an MoU signing ceremony on June 7, 2016, in the office of the Minister, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Abuja, where FMAN promised, among other things, to assist wheat farmers with the provision of farming equipment like water pumps, threshers and seedlings to boost wheat production, in line with government’s policy to achieve food sufficiency and security, create jobs and reduce dependence on importation. The signing of the MoU was described as the beginning of collaboration and co-operation between wheat farmers and flour millers.
In his speech at the occasion, the Vice Chairman of FMAN, Mr. Olarenwaju Jaiyeola, noted that history was being made in Nigeria with the signing of the MoU between both associations with the primary goal of accelerating wheat production in Nigeria.
He noted that the event in Kano was another historic and remarkable one in fulfilment of FMAN’s promise to WFAN having met and interacted with wheat farmers to ascertain their immediate needs.
The Vice Chairman added that the effort was to assist farmers in some wheat growing states to ameliorate some of the challenges faced by farmers particularly with regards to scarcity of seedlings.
Jaiyeola was pleased to reveal that in demonstration of FMAN’s deep grounded interest, passion and commitment to accelerate wheat programme in Nigeria, it released a Research and Development Grant of N20 million to the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) in September 2016.
“The fund is to enable LCRI conduct research into improved wheat farming, wheat technology and modern agricultural practices aimed at developing improved wheat varieties with good yield.  In addition, we expect that the grant will support the institute in the training and dissemination of information to wheat farmers in Nigeria,” he further disclosed.
He seized the opportunity to reiterate FMAN’s strong conviction that Nigeria would be self-sufficient in wheat production if all parties and key stakeholders were determined and worked together with sincerity of purpose.
He said, “we see our role as complimentary to government’s policies and measures, particularly the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN)’s Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) aimed at transforming how the financing of small-holder agriculture is addressed.”
Jaiyeola promised to continue to demonstrate FMAN’s support to wheat farmers from time to time with whom they were forging excellent and beneficial working relationship.
The President of the WFAN, Alhaji Salim Saleh Muhummad, expressed pleasure with the development where flour millers are collaborating with wheat farmers to improve wheat farming in the country for self-sustenance and utilisation, especially in the area of guaranteed market and support with input to farmers.
FMAN’s Executive Secretary, Alhaji Olalekan Saliu, acknowledged the commitment and pioneering role of the Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and the Governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Abubukar Atiku Bagudu. He thanked the two governors for their initiatives and support to farmers and the wheat value chain, expressing FMAN’s appreciation to the CBN for its well thought out ABP, a source of great financial support to Nigerian farmers.
He acknowledged the leadership role, encouragement and support of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who is championing great transformation and achieving major breakthroughs.
Alhaji Saliu also appreciated the efforts of Dr. O. Olabanji of the LCRI and members of his team in the wheat value chain.