How to Start Sugarcane Farming In Nigeria

How to Start Sugarcane Farming In Nigeria | Image Source: Pixabay

The consumption and production of sugar and sugar-based products in Nigeria continues to soar despite the low-income earned by the average person living in the country. Over 1.5 million metric tonnes of sugar is consumed annually in the country and 1.32 MMT of it is produced by local sugar mills. However, these mills spend close to 500 million dollars on the importation of sugarcane from Brazil.

The excessive sugarcane importation causes Nigeria farmers and entrepreneurs to lose out on an enormous agro-business opportunity considering the fact that the soil types, climatic conditions, and abundant farmlands are in favourable conditions for sugarcane farming.

As the country with the second-largest sugar intake and mill in Africa, it is vital to fill the vacuum that has been created by the low sugarcane production.

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What is Sugarcane Farming and Production About?

The preparation, planting, management, and eventual harvesting of sugarcane are known as sugarcane farming and production.

Sugarcane (Saccharum officinaum) is a tall, tropical, grass-like, perennial crop mostly cultivated for its sugar content. It grows 2m to 5m in sunny, hot, tropical areas of the world such as India, Brazil, Nigeria, and China. States like Adamawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Taraba, Kebbi, and Kano produce about 20% of the sugarcane processed in mills.

A hectare of land yields 70-140 tonnes of sugarcane in the right conditions. The quality of the canes harvested relies on climate, soil properties, weed control, frequent irrigation, the variety of sugarcane, and harvest method.

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Business Opportunities in Sugarcane farming and Production Around the World

Sugar cane is a staple crop in tropical countries like India and Brazil—creating avenues for huge profits for farmers and producers both locally and internationally. The crops production, retail, and export also improves the economy of the country by creating jobs, reducing importation, boost cash flow through exports and local market sales, and providing agricultural self-sufficiency.

The federal government recognizes the market and economic potential of this crop and therefore offers a five-year, tax-free period to sugarcane farmers and investors. Consequently, there is more financial leg room for production and distribution of sugarcane yields.

As for distribution of sugar cane, companies like BUA Sugar Limited, Golden Sugar Plc, Dangote Sugar refinery, and Savannah Sugar Company Limited are on-ground, fully functional, and ready to pay money in exchange for high-quality sugarcane yield. Other opportunities apart from sugar processing companies are biofuel production, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks companies, and industrial chemical production. With quite a number of advantages in sugarcane farming, agropreneurs and farmers stand to gain from an investment in this crop’s production.

Some business opportunities of sugarcane farming include,

1). Sugar and Sweeteners:

Sugarcane is a sugar crop. About 80% of sugar produced globally, comes from this food crop. It can be eaten as a fruit and is sold as such by local traders and hawkers. But commercially, it’s sold to sugar mills to be processed into refined sugar. Pastry makers, bakeries, and homes all need this product, daily.

The annual increase in sugar consumption raises the demand for sugar and other sugar-like products like sweeteners. Syrups are extracted from certain sugarcane varieties and processed into sweeteners- a good substitute of sugar.

2). Non-Alcoholic and Alcoholic Beverages:

Naturally sweet, sugarcane is used to produce non-alcoholic, glucose-filled, energy drinks or juice and it’s used as a flavour or sweetener in other mixed fruit juices. In addition, alcoholic drinks are made from a by-product of processed sugarcane called molasses. Molasses is the substance used in creating hot drinks like rum.

3). Biofuel/Electricity Production:

The world is constantly looking for sources of clean and renewable energy. Sugarcane contains enough ethanol content to stand as a source of solar-like energy for electricity and fuel for operating machines. Burning sugarcane fibres after sugar extraction provides electrical energy while keeping the environment pollution free.

4). Bioplastics:

Plastic meal packages, soft drinks containers, water bottles and other plastic products are made with oil from sugarcane crops. Sugarcane-based plastic products are biodegradable—keeping the environment clean and healthy.

5) Skincare Product:

Refined sugarcane is one product found in skin care products because of its exfoliating properties. Grainy in nature, processed sugar scrubs away dead skin cells. When mixed with lemon, it turns into a natural body wax for skin hair removal.

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Facts and Benefits of Sugarcane Farming and Production

  • Sugarcanes are perennial cash crops with thickset, jointed, sugar-rich, and fibrous stalks.
  • Most high-yield sugarcane cultivars are hybrids-products of interbreeding different varieties of sugarcane.
  • About eighty-percent of the world’s refined sugar and sugar originates from sugarcane while the remaining 20% is produced from sugar beets.
  • Globally, sugarcane is the crop with the largest production quantity.
  • The crop only adapts to arid temperatures. Therefore, a tropical country like Nigeria can successfully cultivate sugarcane.
  • A mature sugarcane stalk is comprised of 63-73% water, 11-16% fibre, 12-15% non-sugars, and 11-16% dissolvable sugar.
  • Factors that determine a good sugar cane harvest include soil type, irrigation, disease/pest control, fertilization, and method of harvesting.
  • A hectare of land yields, on average, 60-75 tonnes of cane, annually. However, some yields can be as high as 150-180 tonnes if cultivation process and management is well managed.
  • Farmers harvest sugarcane 2 to 10 times before replanting.
  • Sugarcane contains biofuel—a source of clean and renewable energy.
  • The numerous health benefits of this crop include; energy boosts, alkaline for fighting cancer, antioxidants, digestive aid, skin, and dental care.
  • Sugarcane farming preserves and enhances farmlands during its three-year crop-cycle.
  • This agribusiness creates job opportunities in rural and urban communities.

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Types of Sugarcane Crops

All over the world, hundreds of meals and drinks are prepared with sugar as an important ingredient. In some cases, various kinds of sugars are used to acquire different flavours, tastes, and colours. Different types of sugarcane crops are processed into sweeteners and sugars for different purposes. The three main types of sugarcanes are:

  • Crystal sugarcane
  • Syrup sugarcane
  • Chewing sugarcane

1). Crystal Sugarcane:

Cube and granulated sugars found in many homes, stores, and pastry shops are made from crystal sugarcane variety. This type of sugarcane contains an unusually high concentration of sucrose that crystalizes when boiled. Refined sugars are manufactured through this process.

Other types of sugarcane crops do not produce nearly as much sucrose as these canes do. Due to its high sucrose levels, crystal canes are hard and fibrous making them inedible in raw form.

Crystal canes are also a biomass source, producing surplus ethanol as an alternative source of energy.

2). Syrup Sugarcane:

This variety of sugarcane contains glucose, sucrose and other numerous sugar molecules which reduce its sugar content. Consequently, the amount of crystals left is small and cannot be used to manufacture sugar. For that reason, syrup sugarcane is used to produce other sweeteners like molasses, packaged juice, and syrup.

Hulls from the syrup canes are used to create plastic containers and cardboard paper.

3). Chewing Sugarcane:

Fibres of this cane variety consist of 90% water and 10% sugar. As a result of low sucrose levels, chewing canes do not crystallize when heated. Chewing canes are sweet, soft, and edible without processing.

Local traders and hawkers sell this crop as a fruit snack while some varieties are processed by boiling to manufacture syrup.

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How to Start Sorghum Farming In Nigeria: A Step by Step Guide

1)   Prepare Farmland:

The farmland  for sugarcane farming should have a temperature of 25oC-30oC and 1400-2600mm annual rainfall. With lots of sunshine and water, sugarcane crops thrive and produce a high yield.

Sugarcane does well in most soil types but a well-drained fertile farmland with 5.0-8.0 pH ensures maximum growth and quality yield. Either select a land that retains moisture or prepare for frequent irrigation. Canes need close to eight months of constant irrigation or rainfall.

2). Planting and Propagation:

After deciding on the farming area, clear out the weeds and till the soil into a fine tilth. Cane roots easily absorb moisture and nutrients from a well-prepared soil. Disc or mould ploughs are efficient tilling farm machinery that can break down stumpy, stony or hard soils. Mix in organic manure to enhance soil fertility.

Ridges or furrows are created by tractor-drawn ridge machines. Spaces between furrows should be about 120cm on average soils or 150cm in deep soils. Plant sugarcane setts (billets) horizontally in four-inch deep rows and then cover with a layer of soil.

Planting is done by hand or with a tractor-drawn sugarcane planter. Note that sugarcane rarely produces seeds so either root shoots or cane stems with buds are used. Select and cultivate quality hybrid stems or shoots that are guaranteed to produce high sucrose levels.

3). Crop Management:

Cultivation does not stop when the crops are in the ground. It continues until harvest. As a heavy feeder crop, sugarcane requires lots of nutrients to stay healthy and produce optimum yield. If possible, test the soil to ascertain the number of nutrients it contains. The result of the tests determines the right type and quantity of fertilizers. Organic (NPK) treatments are recommended for sugarcane crops and should be applied at the right time.

Pest and disease control are included in a sugarcane farmer’s management tasks. Without after-crop care, there are quite a number of dangerous pathogen and pests that could destroy canes or reduce yield. Control pests like termites, cane borer, leaf-cutter insects and cane beetle with Confidor or Lorsban.

Watch out for diseases such as red rot disease, sugarcane smut, and gumming disease. Spray appropriate fungicides to prevent or control the spread of infections.

4). Harvest:

Sugarcane crops take as much as 10-24 months to reach maturity and then are manually or mechanically harvested. Reap crystal cane crops as soon as they mature to obtain the high amounts of sucrose-delay results in a decrease in quality and quantity of sugar content.

Two weeks before harvest, be sure to stop all irrigation.

Manual harvests are carried out by skilled farmhands with the aid of machete or cane knives. Start by burning the field to remove leaves, and kill or chase out poisonous snakes. Stalks and sugarcane roots remain safe despite burning.

Next, cut sugarcanes right above ground-level to maximise its sugar yield.

Sugarcane or combined harvesters are the types of machineries used to mechanically reap cane crops. It harvests crops and transfers them into the attached bin at a much faster pace. There is no need to burn field or strip away leaves because it performs those tasks. The downside to mechanical harvesting is that sucrose levels drop rapidly and loss could occur if milling is delayed.

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Challenges of The Sugarcane Farming and Production Business

Some challenges inhibiting the progression of sugarcane farming in Nigeria are:

  • Production costs and initial capital for sugarcane farming are high, especially for small-scale agropreneurs.
  • Most farmers in Nigeria are unable to obtain and utilize vital farm inputs.
  • Lack of the right machinery for soil preparation.
  • Unavailability of facilities and technological means for land preparation.
  • Inefficient crop management techniques.
  • Lack of investments and loans for sugarcane production.
  • Difficulties in controlling or preventing disastrous cane diseases or pests.
  • Inadequate funding of cane research and development facilities.
  • Issues with harvesting processes and methods

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The high consumption rate of sugar in Nigeria heightens the need for a rise in sugarcane production and farming. Sugarcane cultivation is hugely beneficial to farmers, millers, and consumers. Therefore, it would be a prudent decision to make use of our favourable climate and soil conditions by cultivating sugarcane crops.

Before planting sugarcanes, it is important to acquire an in-depth knowledge of cultivation, crop management, and harvesting techniques to ensure you get great harvests.

Sugarcanes are one of the tropical food/cash crops that can ensure a steady profit for agropreneurs, while boosting the revenues generated by the agricultural sector. For that reason, individuals in search of a great and globally-inclined agrobusiness can invest in the sugarcane farming and production business.

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