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For weather related reasons, Nigeria does not produce apples even though there has been a steady increase in its demand by middle class and large retail outlets.
Many still believe that apple cannot grow in Nigerian. But every year, Nigerians spend millions of dollars importing the fruit from South Africa and other European countries. The reason Nigeria spends so much to import apple is not far fetched. People often eat apple raw but it can also be found in many prepared foods and drinks. And there are many health benefits thought to result from eating apples.
Statistics indicate that Nigeria imported 1,882 tonnes, 7,857 tonnes and 32,317 tonnes of apples between 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively from South Africa. Industry watchers said these figures have increased tremendously in the last four years as millions of dollars is expended on importation of apples.
However, apart from statistics available in 2011, 2012, 2013, there is no recent data to indicate amount of apples imported and consumed in Nigeria, but large numbers of apples are imported and brought in through the nation’s borders. But the demand for the product continues to increase indicating that there is a sustainable market for apples in Nigeria, which is largely being driven by the increasing preference for fresh fruit over processed fruit.
It is clearly stated that apples that are sold at shops, in hotels and Nigerian markets have been harvested before they get ripe and they take weeks and months before getting here. Even the apples are injected somehow to preserve them.
There is good news for farmers who want to venture into this money spinning fruit. Today, there is a specie of apple called semi-arid apple, also known as ‘wambugu’ apple, which matches Nigeria’s weather conditions. This basically means that the apple can grow and do well in Nigeria, as government is looking for a way of reducing import bills.
The semi-arid apple was developed by Peter Wambugu, a man who used to work as a mechanic in the streets of Nyeri, central Kenya, now a trained agriculture expert.
The semi-arid apple can grow to climate of up to 36°, which is within Nigeria’s weather conditions because the apple specifically is for hot and warm areas and it has a lifespan of 50 years. The apple can grow in any West African country and anywhere in the world. The semi-arid apple bears up 500 to 2000 fruits on each tree every season and it has two seasons in a year, starting between July, August, December and January.
As Nigerians look for fresh fruits and food everyday, it would be advisable for farmers to invest as early as possible and take advantage of the prevailing opportunities to make some good returns.
Presently, in Nigerian markets, a piece of apple goes for N50, N100 and above depending on its size. Some hotels buy apple in cartons week in, week out, which shows the huge prospects for the fruits. If a tree produces at least 500 fruits per harvest and multiply the 500 by N50 and also with 250 to 300 trees, you know how much that will fetch you in two seasons.
Speaking with Daily Sun, on the potential of the fruit, the Chief Executive Officer, Wambugu Apple Farm, Peter Wambugu, said the semi-arid apple variety is a kind of apple that does best in hot and warm areas, which makes it different from any other imported apple, saying it requires only manure and water for it to grow well.
According to him, the semi-arid apple variety has a very good income as the harvest season comes every nine to 13 months.
He explained: “I began this farming 40 years ago. Till now, even my children are still farming apples. This apple won the best apple in the world that is able to grow anywhere in any climate and soil. The apples are organically grown and thus, they need good manure and water for them to grow better. They can grow to climate of up to 36°! The apple takes nine to 14 months to mature to fruiting and one acre requires 310 plants.”
On planting, he said: “When you get your seedling, allow 5m by 5m spacing from one plant to another. 2fts by 2fts deep 2fts! Mix 1 bucket of manure with topsoil and return back to the hole later; putting 20 liters of water mix with the soil well and plant the seedling! Later do mulching! For pest control, since this apple has very few pests, it would be able to grow with very minimal maintenance. Climate and soil type are no problem for the semi-arid apple variety.