How To Start A Lucrative Potato Farming Business In Nigeria Or Africa: The Complete Guide
Potatoes, the world’s 4th most popular food crop, after maize, wheat, and rice, is a widely consumed meal in every country. In Nigeria, it is consumed in over 500,000 households weekly, while in Ireland, it is considered as their staple food.
This highly nutritional crop belongs to the kingdom Plantae, the genus Solanum and is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum Tuberosum.
The explosive demand for their supply is largely triggered not just by their tasty nature, but by the highly nutritious value they contain. Depending on whether it is the sweet potato or the irish potato, a medium-sized potato gives an extremely low 110 calories, contains zero amounts of cholesterol, fat, sodium, and are rich in Vitamin C, Potassium, iron, Vitamin B6, and fibre.
What Is Potato Farming About?
Potato farming is the commercial cultivation of potato crops for food and several other purposes. These crops are usually planted around March and then harvested between 13 to 20 weeks after.
Business Opportunities In Potato Farming Around The World
1). A Source Of Food:
Potatoes are first a great source of food, because of their highly nutritious state. They can be boiled, fried, baked, roasted, and mashed for salads. While potatoes are largely boiled or fried in many parts of the world, in some areas, they’re used in the production of chocolates, cookies, and even pizza.
The food-health value of potatoes coupled with the advent of ready to eat potatoes largely sold on the roadsides and also as packaged products in some grocery stores, have made potato farming a valuable agribusiness to venture into.
2). Domestic And Experimental Uses:
Potatoes aren’t just a source of food, but have a wide variety of domestic and experimental uses; like powering a light bulb, removing stains from windows, applications in the cosmetics industry, treating cardiovascular diseases, and several others.
Benefits Of Potato Farming
- A good source of employment at the right scale.
- A great source of food.
- Potatoes can serve as a major export product.
- Remove stains.
- To clean windows.
- To make potato juice for ailments.
- Remove warts.
- Shine your silverwares e.g. cutlery.
- For cosmetic purposes.
- To relieve a burn.
- To absorb excess salt from a cooking pot.
- Eliminate rust from metal.
- Power a light bulb.
Facts About Potatoes
- The potato word comes from the Spanish word patata.
- Potatoes are vegetables, but contain a lot of starch.
- Potatoes contain various vitamins and minerals
- Storing potatoes after purchase isn’t so efficient, but they are easy to grow.
- Potatoes are the 4th most important food crop in the world after maize, wheat, and rice.
- There are thousands of potato varieties, but not all are commercially viable.
- According to a 2010 report, China is the largest producer of potatoes.
- Although it has the same name, sweet potato is a root vegetable, and is loosely related to potato.
- Potatoes can be prepared and served in different ways including: frying, boiling, mashing, and baking.
- Potatoes are also known as spuds.
- The french fries usually contain a lot of fat, and so should be eaten scarcely.
- Potato chips are the most common food snacks around the world.
The Popular Potato Farming Species
1). The Red Potatoes:
- Appearance: small to medium; round or slightly oblong; smooth, thin red skin; white flesh
- Texture: waxy, moist and smooth; creamy
- Flavor: Subtly sweet; mild medium sugar content
- Preferred uses: Roasting, mashing, salads, soups/stews
2). The White Potatoes:
- Appearance: small to medium; round to long shape; white or tan skin; white flesh
- Texture: medium starch; slightly creamy, slightly dense; thin, delicate skin
- Flavor: subtly sweet; mild; low sugar content
- Preferred uses: mashing, salads, steaming/boiling, frying
- Other Names: They’re also called the irish potato
3). The Yellow Potatoes:
- Appearance: marble to large size; round or oblong shape; light tan to golden skin; yellow to golden flesh
- Texture: slightly waxy, velvety, moist
- Flavor: subtly sweet; rich; buttery; medium-sugar content
- Preferred uses: grilling, roasting, mashing, salads
- Other Names: They’re also called the sweet potato
4). The Purple/Blue Potatoes:
- Appearance: small to medium-size; oblong to fingerling; deep purple, blue or slightly red skin; blue, purple lavender, pink or white flesh
- Texture: moist; firm flesh. Note–all blue and purple Peruvian varieties have higher starch content and a floury texture
- Flavor: earthy, nutty, low sugar content
- Preferred Uses: roasting, grilling, salads, baking
5). The Fingerling Potatoes:
- Appearance: 2-4 inches long; finger-shaped or oblong; red, orange, purple or white skin; red orange, purple, yellow or white flesh–sometimes streaked with veins of color
- Texture: waxy, firm, try
- Flavor: buttery; nutty; earthy; medium sugar content
- Preferred uses: pan-frying, roasting, salads
6). The Petite Potatoes:
- Appearance: these small, bite-sized potatoes are actually a grade standard based upon size (“C-size” and smaller, oftentimes referred to as pearls or marble-size)
- Texture: they are the same skin and flesh color as their larger-sized cousins, as well as the shape, texture and sugar content
- Flavor: similar but with a more concentrated flavor to their larger-sized cousins.
- Preferred uses: salads, roasting, frying
Setting Up Your Potato Farm
1). Choose An Appropriate Site:
Growing potatoes in an open area with full access to sunlight is the best way to go about the cultivation. The site could slope slightly, be protected from the wind, and be facing southward. A good source of water must also be located close to the farm to facilitate better irrigation whenever it is required.
The soil should be well drained, deep enough, and loose with a P.H of 5.5 to 6.5, for optimum results. Although potatoes can grow on a wide variety of soil types, even though partially acidic soils are the best, it is always important that you carry out soil tests to determine the crop’s fertilizer and lime requirements.
Choosing a farmland where no crop has been grown on for a consecutive period of 2 years is important to reduce the risk of diseases. The disease free state can also be maintained by ensuring constant crop rotation. This prevents nematodes like the eelworm, which can live for up to 20 to 30 years, from infesting your farmland.
2). Acquire The Right Machinery:
For a successful yield, it is important to have a tractor, irrigation equipment, fertilizer applicators, spraying equipment, cultivation equipment, tipping device, forklift, diggers/harvesters, graders, bag sewing machines, scales, and bins.
While these machineries may seem directed towards high-income farmers, small scale farmers can still use traditional methods to carry the potato cultivation process.
3). Prepare The Soil:
Before planting your potatoes, it is critical that you prepare the soil far ahead, so it would have settled properly before the planting season. This preparation process could involve applying fertilizer and organic matter to the soil, and removing large stones and weed.
You should then prepare dry seed beds so as to prevent crop damage and compaction. Not paying attention to this results in a very low crop yield.
4). Choose The Potato Variety To Plant:
This phase is highly important because, it is critical you grow potatoes that your market wants. In making this decision, some factors to lookout for when selecting a potato variety to plant are:
- Disease resistance
- Storage lifespan
- Food quality
5). Follow Up Some Important Factors:
Here, you have to properly manage your potato farm based on some critical checklists. Some of them to watch include:
- Timing: Potatoes should be planted in dry soil with a temperature of preferably 7°C.
- Planting Depth: The depth should be between 12 to 15 cm below the surface, and between 4 to 5 cm above the furrow base in order to protect seeds against wet weather conditions. The type of potato and its seed is also a major determinant to the depth of the soil.
- Seeding Rate: The size of the potato tubers and the cost management is highly important for an optimal seed rate.
- Spacing: The tomatoes should be spaced for up to 12 inches. The soil type, moisture, fertility, harvest size, and potato variety is taken into account when arriving at a decision for this phase.
- Drip Irrigation: This is one of the best irrigation methods in potato farming, because it manages the moisture content well, and so, can be used in applying nutrients in precise amounts.
6). Fertilizer Application:
Substantial quantities of Phosphates, Nitrogen, and Potassium, must be applied to improve the tuber size, crop yield, and quality.
7). Controlling Pests And Diseases:
You’d have to introduce strict practices that eliminate weed to improve the water level of your soil, eradicate pests like the eelworm, slugs, wireworms and aphids, and you’d need to contain diseases like the blackleg and bacterial soft rot, potato blight, rhizoctonia, common and powdery scab, black scurf, and several others.
Controlling all these potato crop threats with strict practices is a very important step to follow.
8). Harvesting Your Potatoes:
The right time to harvest your potatoes is highly dependent on the weather conditions, the growth season, and the desired tuber size. In the process of harvesting these potatoes, ensure there is minimal damage to the tubers before storage.
You will start off the harvest process by desiccation of the foliage. This is critical when the crop is going to be stored for a period of time. If the crops will be sold immediately, desiccation (burning off) is not a compulsory step to take.
After applying a desiccant, you’d need to wait for an average of 2 to 3 weeks before you can start or continue harvesting the potatoes. During this wait-period, the skin of the tubers will mature, and so increases its chances of surviving rot, due to damage or diseases at harvest and storage.
The potatoes should be properly stored within the first 14 days of harvest to enable cuts on the potatoes to heal properly. For large quantities of potatoes, they should be stored in plastic containers rather than wooden containers, since the plastic storage facilities are a lot easier to clean.
Challenges Of Potato Farming
- Securing water for irrigation.
- The need for a long-term cross-rotation strategy.
- Pests and diseases.
- A shortage of skilled labour and seasoned staff.
- High costs of production
- Lack of quality potato seed
- High costs of fertilizer
- High costs of machinery.
- unstable market prices
- Constant education
- They’re perishable goods (can be stored for up to 10 months, rather than years)
While there are several agribusinesses that have high potentials for great yield and profitability, potato farming is a great one to venture into, if executed at the right scale.
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