How To Start A Lucrative Dates Farming Business in Nigeria: The Complete Guide
Dates is a flowering plant species of the palm family, Arecaceae, and is cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Dates originated from Egypt and Mesopotamia and are now widely grown across the Middle East, Northern Africa and South Asia. It is also naturalised in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. Dates are very sweet fruits, containing about 61 to 68% sugar by mass when dried.
According to statistics, approximately 8.5 million metric tonnes of dates are consumed globally each year and countries in the Middle East and North Africa the largest producers and suppliers.
In Nigeria, yields are grown mainly in Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Adamawa and Taraba states.
The national consumption of dates in 2009 was rated at 8,958 metric tonnes which positioned the country among the world’s top 10 consumers of dates. The cultivation and domestic production of dates totalled 1,958 metric tonnes that same year. Although dates are found mainly in the Northern region of the country, starting a dates farming business in any part of Nigeria could be a lucrative business. You will find a detailed guide to help you through the process in this article.
What Are Dates?
A date is a stone fruit with a single seed enclosed in an exterior fleshy fruit (like peaches, mangoes, and olives). They grow on date palm trees (Phoenix dactylifera).
What Is Dates farming?
Dates farming refers to all the procedures involved in the cultivation of dates. It also includes the harvesting, storage/preservation, marketing and selling of dates.
Business Opportunities In Dates Farming In Nigeria & Around The World
1). Food Production:
Dates are a great source of food. They make a tasty snack and are often combined with other foods such as almonds, nut butter or soft cheese. Dates have several health benefits in the human body. This realisation has made lots of people invest in using them in food and snack production.
2). Dates as Substitute for Sugar:
Dates are a source of fructose, a natural type of sugar found in fruit. For this reason, dates are lovely and also have a slightly caramel-like flavour. They make an outstanding healthy alternative for white sugar in recipes due to the nutrients, fibre and antioxidants that they contain.
3). Dates Oil Production:
Dates can be processed to generate dates oil. The dates oil is used as an organic product beneficial for skin, hair and overall health.
Facts and Benefits of Dates
- Depending on the variety, fresh dates are relatively small in size and range in colour from bright red to bright yellow.
- Dates are chewy with a sweet flavour.
- The calorie content of dates is very similar to that of other dried fruits such as raisins and figs.
- They are usually eaten plain but can also be added to other popular dishes.
- Dates are a vital source of vitamins, minerals, and energy.
- The high fibre content of dates helps the digestive system by preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements.
- It also contributes to the control of blood sugar levels and promotes brain function.
- Dates are also very high in antioxidants and contain lots of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Dates reduce pain during labour, and also improve labour activity, reducing the need for stimulation of labour. The high caloric content in dates makes them a good source of energy for women in the process of delivery.
- Egypt, Iran, UAE and Algeria are some of the biggest producers of dates all over the world.
- The use of dates strengthens the immune system and helps to fight viruses and bacteria faster and more efficiently.
- Dates can harm the body when taken excessively. It can cause a lesion of the teeth due to fructose, as well as intestinal disorder.
- Dates fruits have been known in Northern Africa for well over 7000 years
- Dates can be consumed with camel milk
- The UAE has about 200 types of dates fruits.
- Adamawa, Kano and Kaduna are some of the states where dates are grown in Nigeria.
- Dates trees are also used to make eyeliners.
Types of Dates
There are over a thousand varieties of dates all over the world. Dates vary in the quantity of sugar, colour, shape and size. However, there are only three major kinds of dates:
1). Soft Dates:
The soft dates are fresh and are in their natural state. Their shelf life is only for a few days.
2). Semi-dry Dates:
These dates are also in their natural state, and they have a shelf life of about three months.
3). Dry dates:
The dry dates are dates without moisture. This makes them look harder and shrivelled.
How To Start A Dates Farming Business: Step-By-Step Guide
1). Land Preparation:
The choice of land should be a sandy-loam soil rich in organic matter. The soil should be ploughed to loosen it up.
Planting dates requires proper knowledge. Any mistake made could be very risky to the yield. You should note that date palms are either male or female palms. Both are needed for the plant to bear fruit. It would take years before the gender of the trees should be known. Therefore, it is better to purchase seedlings in the form of cuttings from existing palms to get the appropriate gender. In the early part of the year, the male date palms would produce sheaths of pollen. The pollen should be collected and spread over the female flowers once the female flowers start blooming.
Although date trees do not require excess water, the date palms would have to be watered during the developing stage for two years. This would help the date plants to yield plenty of fruits.
3). Harvesting and Preservation:
For the traditional date palms, development and harvest time could take 6 to 7 years while hybrid seedlings take up to 4 to 5 years.
The best method to preserve dates is by storing them in a well-ventilated store. Under such conditions, they could last for more than a year.
Challenges of Dates Farming Business in Nigeria
The challenges of dates farming in Nigeria include:
- Lack of experience among local farmers
- Pests and diseases attack
- Lack of suitable planting materials
- Lack of proper research in the dates production sector
- Lack of adequate storage facilities
- Delayed harvest
- Producing dates requires lots of efforts and labour
- Low government support for dates farmers
- Absence of loans for large-scale dates farmers
- Difficulty in reaching the international dates market
- Attacks by stray animals
- Unavailability of required technology to process dates.
To Sum It Up
Nigeria remains the only country where date palms have two harvesting seasons in a year. This is a significant advantage for any dates farmer or investor in Nigeria. However, the production and supply of dates in the country can still not cater to the demands. For all of its demands, dates farming is a rich sector for a farmer in Nigeria or Africa. If you’re considering starting a farming business, you should give dates farming a try.
The dates farming business in Nigeria can be a lucrative and profitable venture to start-up, due to its vast market demand and on your ability to build a wide supply chain network. If you’re looking for a supply chain business to venture into, the dates farming business in Nigeria is a great option to explore.
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