Nigeria could raise its foreign exchange earnings by $1 billion (N360billion) annually from Coconut export provided with focused and dedicated farming practice by local farmers, an agriculture expert has said.
In an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP, an agriculture consultant and head of business development and strategy, Amicable Mondiale Farms, Amaka Chukwudum said huge opportunities abound in harnessing potentials in Coconut farming.
According to Chukwudum, an acre of coconut will take about 100 dwarf coconuts, and its fruit maturity is between 18-36 months if a farmer gets a good specie and each fruit yields about 200 nuts.
She calculates that even if the farmer sells each nut at 100 naira, the one acre should be able to yield nothing less than N 2 million and in that graduation if the country could produce up to 5million coconuts the country would have enough to meet local demand and export the excess.
She said Coconut is an essential raw material in sectors such as cosmetics, beverages, textiles, medicine, and it is used to produce coconut peat, coconut coir, coconut flour, coconut sweetener, desiccated coconut, mug, plates, carpet, rugs, coconut candy, coconut rice, activated charcoal and jewelry, which is helping to push up demand.
According to her, Nigeria is the 18th producer of coconut in the world because the country is not utilizing the opportunities that lies in coconut farming, pointing that 90 per cent of the opportunities that lie in coconut farming are yet to be tapped.
“Coconut also known as the tree of heaven because of its various uses, can transform Nigeria’s agriculture sector and the Return on Investment, ROI, in coconut farming is over 80 per cent because the demand of coconut is very high both local and worldwide”.
Chukwudum, said there are opportunities and possibilities of increasing coconut production in Nigeria. “Yes some people are beginning to understand the importance of coconut. We have over 50,000 seedlings ready for planting and we are still nursing more. Nigerian farmers still cannot meet the demand in our country not to talk of the international demand. The recent discovery of coconut oil, milk and water is creating market for the product and the demand is on the rise by the day.
The demand for coconut locally has not been met, and the need is rising as the nutritional value is being researched and more revealed by the day.”
In further analysis she said that it takes 4 – 9 years for coconut tree to reach maturity depending on the variety planted and their agricultural management. They produce in bunches maturing at the same time. From the time coconut fruits to when it is matured for harvest is about a year and attain full size within 6 months.
Coconuts are ready for harvest once the nuts turn brownish or yellowish in colour and they sometimes fall down on their own but you can use sticks to harvest them.
Chukwudum, informed that Coconut produce and fruit throughout their lifespan and can live for more than 60 years.
“A tree can produce 70 nuts in a year while hybrid coconut tree can produce about 200 nuts in a year, 60 per cent of oil can be processed out from hybrid coconut. That is why hybrid coconut seedlings should be planted for commercial coconut farming” she advised.
She said there are Tall × dwarf, dwarf × tall, which are two acommon hybrid varieties cultivated in Nigeria. Hybrid coconut matures in 4 years and starts flowering in the second year and come to full flowering in the third year.
Explaining, she said dwarf varieties includes savukot, malaion elo orange and savukot green, they are planted for their tender coconut, while Yazpanam is cultivated for their big nuts, just as Ayiram kaichi is planted for plenty nuts.
She also informed that dwarf variety has a short lifespan but matures fast and as the name implies are short in stature and it takes a long time for tall varieties to reach maturity but starts producing many fruits once established.
She said she into practical farming and her farm is into business of export of Hibiscus flower, ginger, millet, garlic and snail, to the United States and Germany, and still seeking for bigger market as the farm is expanding its production and adding value to farm products but is currently facing finance challenge.
She graduated from Abia state University and has Master degree from business School Netherlands, before my passion drove her into farming in both plant and animal with snail farming and rice as her signature, helping farmers set up their farms in Nigeria, Ghana and Republic of Benin.
Agriculture, she said is the way to go, so apart from farming coconut value addition is key as it is painful that Nigeria exports wealth while and import poverty.