Sweet potato farming is common in Nigeria, and venturing into the business of sweet potato farming has the potential of high returns on investment (ROI).
Profit potential in sweet potato farming is not surprising, especially in Nigeria, where the river crop is widely consumed.
It is mostly boiled or fried and eaten with sauce or stew. Also, it can be processed into making other meals such as potato chips and flour meals.
This tells of the importance of sweet potatoes in the Nigerian culture and answers why it is a good idea to start a sweet potato farming business.
In this article, we are going to look at the business of commercial sweet potato farming, and the opportunities therein.
Why farm sweet potato?
There is no better time to start the business of potato farming than now, only the domestic demand for this crop is enough reason to jump into the business.
The domestic demand is huge and there is a deficit in the supply of sweet potatoes in the country. Moreover, the government is making it easy to engage in agribusiness, thanks to friendly policies and programs targeted towards encouraging people to go back to farming.
Well, like already stated, the demand for sweet potato is not surprising because its dietary uses are plenty.
Having mentioned, dietary uses, another reason the demand for sweet potato is rising is due to the many nutritional benefits it has. Sweet potato is packed with essential nutrients the body needs for good living.
It has a good supply of vitamins such as Vitamin A, C, E, and K. It contains Calcium, Riboflavin, Phosphorus, and Iron. The nutritional contents make sweet potato ideal for consumption, hence, the high demand for it.
Requirements for the cultivation of sweet potato
A major requirement for sweet potato farming is an area of land, without a piece of land, you cannot farm. So, as you are thinking about starting sweet potato farming, make sure there is available land waiting to be cultivated. If you don’t have available land of your own, you can buy, rent or lease. Land is a major resource and it will cost you a fortune, especially if you choose to buy.
If you are setting out to engage in commercial sweet potato farming, a large expanse of land will be required depending on how big you are planning to start.
However, you can always start small and gradually expand, the most important thing is to properly utilise the farmland to get a bountiful harvest. Poor utilisation of farmland will result in low yield even if you farmed hectares.
Also, sweet potato farming requires, tending such as weed control, application of fertilizer, and pest control.
Weed can grow all over your sweet potato farm, choking the crop and competing for soil nutrients with your crops. This can cause poor growth and low yield. Hence, the reason why weed control is an important requirement.
Pests such as insects, rodents, and even large animals like pigs can severely destroy your sweet potato farm. For example, a single pig can ravage plenty of mounds or ridges and eat up your sweet potato tuber.
You have to take measures to control pests, by fencing your farmland against animals like pigs or applying pesticides to kill off insects and other infectious pathogens that can affect your sweet potato tubers.
Ideally, the application of fertilizer is done during the preparation of mounds or ridges or when planting your sweet potato stems. Organic fertilizer should be applied as it helps to improve the soil structure.
How to cultivate sweet potato
Sweet potato farming is not difficult, and it does not require any complex technical know-how. Sweet potatoes are cultivated through shoots gotten from mature sweet potato plants as it is applicable to tuber crops.
Sweet potato stem grows in length and crawls on the ridge. Stilts can be used to support growing stems. Sweet potato requires a loose and organically rich soil type. It does not thrive in waterlogged areas, although, it requires an adequate supply of water.
Tillage can be done in a variety of ways, you can choose to make ridges or mounds.
Ridges or mounds should be higher because sweet potato has tap roots that grow downwards hence the reason why it thrives well in loose and deep soils. Ideally, organic manure should be used for sweet potato farming, it nourishes the soil as well as helps to improve its structure.
Process of planting sweet potato
As already stated, sweet potato requires high ridges or mounds to plant stems obtained from mature plants.
Holes 10 – 18 inches apart are dug for planting the stems. Compost manure is ideal for nutrients supplement, it can be applied directly into the dug holes or applied when making ridges or mounds.
Sweet potato stems should be planted into the holes upwards, then covered with soil. Ideally, sweet potato farming should be done during the rainy season, however, irrigation can be used to cultivate sweet potatoes. Sweet potato takes 3 to 4 months to become ready for harvest.
Sweet potatoes can be sold directly from the farm they are mature for harvesting or harvested and taken to the market for sales to consumers or market women.
However, you can process some of your harvested potatoes into other products and sell them to make more money.
For example, potatoes can be processed into chips or flour meals. There is value addition and it diversifies sources of revenue. However, processing will involve buying equipment and possibly engaging in technical activities.
Commercial farming is a secure way of financial investment that gives high returns. Therefore, venturing into sweet potato farming on a commercial scale is a sound idea. The market is there and the benefits are enormous.
Remember that you can always start small then expand gradually till you attain the heights you dream to attain. With careful consideration of the aforementioned things on potato farming, there is a strong possibility of making lots of money from sweet potato farming.
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