Investing in Plantain Processing Plants

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God blessed this country with more than one type of climatic zone, many soil types for agricultural production and food crops that can be grown all the year round in many parts of the country both for local consumption, processing and export. The major problem with Nigeria is how to feed our teeming population with the population figure growing every day.

There are so many food crops that can make Nigeria great. Apart from cassava, yam, and rice plantain and banana are another food crop. Plantain is even more commercially viable and profitable to invest into than cassava.

Much of the plantains grown during the year, like many other agricultural produce, is perishable and have to be processed for the purpose of preservation and availability on a wide scale in areas where such produce is not available. It can be processed for local consumption and even for export.

There is always wide price differential in prices for the raw products and processed products especially during off-season periods.

 Products and uses

Investment in the processing, preserving and marketing of plantain is an immensely lucrative venture. When the pulp of unripe plantain is sliced, dried and milled, the end-product is flour. This flour, apart from being eaten as gruel (‘elubo’) can be put to high commercial value in making the following products. They are Biscuits, Cakes, Bread, Pan Cakes, Pudding, Puff-puff etc.

Plantain is highly sought after because it is a delicacy, a good and readily available source of carbohydrate, protein and pro-vitamin A. it has other medicinal effects on the body. Concoction prepares from a mixture of plantains and other items are known to cure sore throat, diarrhea, and vomiting. Plantain flour is easily prepared as food and digests fast.

 

Raw Material Availability and Sources

The basic raw material for the production of plantain flour and chips is the harvested unripe plantain pulp.

Plantain & Banana is largely produced between latitudes 300 N and 310S. In Nigeria, it is grown for food and it also serves as shade for cocoa plant. It is exported and also sold locally.

Plantain requires well-drained loam soil rich in organic matter and of pH range 5.0-7.5. The temperature should not be below 160C or above 350C. Hence for high yield 240C is the ideal temperature.

Rainfall should never be less than 130cm. Rainfall of about 250cm should be good, though what matters is the distribution, for the plant is very sensitive to drought.

Plantain and banana belong to the same family and have similar appearance and requirements. Plantains are taller in height and bear fewer but larger fruits. The fruits are usually cooked or fried.

The recommended varieties are the Red Ogoni, Agbagba, Bini, Orishele and the Osaboaso. They are propagated by means of suckers or bits. The suckers could be

  1. Sword suckers: These are suckers without open leaves
  2. Maidens: These are young plantains with open leaves and
  3. Peepers which are small suckers just emerging from the soil.

Sword suckers are the best propagules i.e. the best planting materials. When maidens are used, it is necessary to cut them back 30cm before planting. Peepers are planted in polybags or nursery before planting into the field. This could last for 2 months provided the soil in the polybag is rich. For quicker multiplication of suckers, a mature plant is cut back near the ground. The base is consolidated with rich soil forming a mound around it. Suckers quickly force through the mound. They can then be removed and planted in the nursery as soon as they are visible. With this method, it is possible to obtain 20-30 suckers from one plant.

The following states are known to produce large quantities of plantain namely, Anambra, Akwa -ibom, Abia, Benue, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Lagos, Rivers, Oyo, Osun and Ogun

From available statistics, Cross River, Delta and Enugu states produced 2, 144, 900 out of 2, 216,500 M.T. of plantains, while Cross River state alone accounted for 1, 586,500 MT. And for any serious entrepreneur contemplating commercial production of plantains or plantain flour, both for local consumption and export, establishing and running a plantain plantation is advised in order to ensure regular supply of pulp, control of price of raw material input, of profit and the benefits to be derived from the other uses of the various parts of plantain.

 

The Market

Because of the nutritional values and medicinal effects of plantain, its flour and chips is highly sought after. The market is large, expanding and sustainable because it is a basic food item, its demand increases with scarcity as prices of substitutes become prohibitive, it is highly recommended for diabetic patients and a good preventive for the health conscious; It is one of the cheapest sources of iron, protein, vitamin A etc.; It is a good foreign exchange earner; Its processing lengthens its shelf life etc.

Any processor can market his finished product through established food canteens, wholesale shops, hotels, market women, individuals, hospitals, higher institutions and overseas agents in the event of export to countries where black people reside and who may cherish the product.

 

Machinery and Equipment

To process plantain pulp into flour and chips, one needs the following:

Peeler (peeling can also be done manually; Cutter/cracker; Dryer; Plate mill; Sieves; Packaging machine; Weighing scale; Wheel barrows, fryers, packaging machines; knives etc.; Spare parts

All these are locally available at affordable cost.

 

Production Technology

Briefly, the stages involved in plantain flour production are as follows- Procurement of fresh green (unripe) pulp in large quantities; Sorting, cleaning, and selection of the pulp to be processed; Manual peeling of pulp (hot water blanching can be done); Storage of the pulp in water tank to prevent enzymic browning action; Dicing or slicing (manually or with automatic machine); Drying or dehydration of the slices; Milling; Sieving (to obtain different sizes of flour required); Grading according to particle sizes and Packing and packaging for sale

Quality Control

Being a food processing venture, there is need for good quality control through stringent, hygienic conditions which must accord with the internationally acceptable standards especially if the products are to be exported.


Labour Requirement

The minimum number of people needed for procurement, production administration to marketing for this level of project is 19. However, for the cottage type of production, a minimum of two will be needed.

Location

For this project to be economically carried out, it needs to be sited in the zone where plantain pulp is abundantly obtainable because of reducing transport cost as it is very bulky and heavy. Those who reside in the above mentioned states can safely do so. The market is national and international; once processed, the flour becomes less heavy and can be transported to distant markets where it is scarce for sale.

 

Project cost estimate

The estimate of the cost of implementing this project will depend on such factors as:

The scale of production (cottage, small-scale or medium scale),The target market (the smaller the market, the lower the cost),The type, capacity and number of machinery and equipment, The location of the project

 

Feasibility and viability

The technology for this project has been tested and found to be feasible and very simple to operate. From studies carried out, the project has the following to its advantage:

  1. High return on investment: 57% to 214%
  2. High internal rate of return: 45% to 266%
  3. Short payback period
  4. Adequate manning level and local availability of both machinery and equipment, labor and raw materials
  5. High demand and repeat-sales tendency because of large and increasing population
  6. Plantain flour and chips is a highly acceptable staple and medicinal food
  7. Good foreign exchange earner, etc

For further enquiries, please contact the writer

 

Uba Godwin

Global Trust Consulting,

56, Ishaga Road (1st floor), Surulere, Lagos

Tel- 08034494437, 08023664368, 09093939140

E-mail: ubagodwin@yahoo.com