PROFITABILITY OF SUGARCANE FARMING BUSINESS
Currently, Nigeria has the largest sugar refining plant in Africa yet most of the raw materials needed to produce sugar are imported from Brazil. This comes at a cost to the country of over $500 million every year.
It is important for you to know that the agricultural land in the country is more than enough to cultivate the sugarcane we need for sugar production.
The available land has the potential of processing approximately 5 million metric tonnes of sugarcane which gives about 3 million metric tonnes of sugar.
The potential associated with sugarcane farming is really massive, yet only a few are taking advantage of it.
One reason for this is the possibility that a lot of potential investors are not equipped with the adequate knowledge to help them in the process of starting a sugarcane plantation.
It is interesting to note that the Nigerian government has provided incentive to those in the sugar industry by offering a 5 year tax free holiday to investors, according to nigerianfinder.com. So, what is holding you back from being a sugarcane farmer?
Sugarcane doesn’t require huge capital for a start. You can start with one hundred thousand naira excluding land except you are leasing (enibest.com).
A hectare of land yields 80-140 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
You need funding for mechanized machinery, landed property, building structures and purchasing stem buds. Other financial considerations are labor costs, pest control, manure and irrigation.
You can acquire loans from commercial banks in your area. There are agricultural banks eager to help aspiring farmers in most countries. To secure loans however, you need collateral and a guarantor.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO GET STARTED WITH YOUR SUGARCANE FARM?
1. Land: If you have lots of acres that have been vacant for many years, you might as well use it for your new venture.
2. Market: The important thing you need to do is to look for the probable demand of the product that you are about to provide your market.
Look for companies and sugar suppliers who are interested in doing business with you and negotiate with them.
3. Staff: You will need few workers in the beginning so you will not be pressured in handling number of people who will work on your farm. But as your business expands, you would need to recruit more workers on your farm.
FARM SET UP AND PRODUCTION
Sugarcane are planted in furrows at either horizontal or at 45-degree angles. It takes anywhere between 12,000 and 25,000 stems to plant 2.5 acres (1 ha) of land.
After they are planted, they are covered with a light layer of soil.
The method of planting sugarcane is by vegetative cuttings of either the stem or some sections of the stalk. These are called setts.
On the other hand, you can also plant settlings which are sections of the cane with the roots or shoots. The sugarcane setts or settlings should be planted horizontally into furrows or trenches of about 4 inch deep.
The insects that are known to attack sugar cane plantation include the early shoot borer, internode borer and pyrilla. There are some common disease infestations too. The most destructive of them are the red rot and the ratoon stunting disease.
Generally, treatment in the case of a pest or disease infestation involves the use of the appropriate fungicide and pesticide.
Sugarcane harvesting is a complex process that involves careful cutting and handling procedures to maintain high sugar content and cane quality.
In developing nations, and even in some sugarcane mills that see more advantages to the manual method, little or no machinery is used for the labor- intensive process.
Early harvesting methods involved burning canes to remove leaves, weeds, and other trash. Harvesting also included, and still does in some fields, the cutting of stalks with machete-type knives, also known as cutlass.
In anywhere from eight to 12 months, sugar stem, also known as a set or seed piece, is cut from the sugarcane.
It is more desirable to cut the stem from the upper third portion of the cane so that the maximum sugar content can be retained. This is also beneficial for the crop that remains planted, as it will continue to grow without any necessary replanting.
Harvesting normally takes place between June and December, when rainfall is at a minimum. When canes are harvested, the soil is left alone for a short period of time and then tilled and plowed by plows to allow moisture to access the seeds, which stimulates growth.
Utilizing machinery to harvest and cut sugarcane sometimes means accepting losses to soil compaction and a decrease in the quality of the sugarcane. Dirt tends to associate itself more with machinery, affecting every process of sugar production, from the fields, to the grinding, to the final product. (Source: naija.ng).
You can harvest sugarcane up to 2 times in one year. And the two major methods used are; the manual method which involves setting the field on fire to burn dry leaves and to destroy snakes hiding in the plantation and the mechanical method for large scale farms.
The main product of sugarcane is raw sugar, made from the juice of the cane, and molasses which is a by-product of the sugarcane refining process.
Ethanol can also be produced from sugarcane, which is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar and starch components of plant materials using yeast.
Ethanol can be used for food products but is also used as a biofuel.
Bio-ethanol can be used in its pure form but is commonly added to gasoline to reduce vehicle emissions.
90% of the sugar used in Nigeria is refined by indigenous refineries which means you already have an easily accessible and available market in the country. Therefore, there is little or no need for you to go through the stress of applying for an export license before you can plant sugarcane.
Also, you can choose to increase your market base by exporting your product to other countries of the world. Whatever the case, having a sugarcane plantation is very beneficial and highly profitable in Nigeria.
Compiled by Damilola Omotoyinbo.