Coconut farming plays a major role in the economy of some countries and about 86 countries produce coconut. But the three major producers of coconut are India, Indonesia and Philippine.
PROFITABILITY OF COCONUT FARMING
On how to become a successful coconut farmer, the Deputy Managing Director of Peniel Gerar International Limited, Ojiefoh Enahoro Martins, said that the potential in coconut farming is huge as export market for the product is increasing everyday, according to Sun News Online.
Mr. Ojiefoh continued by saying the cost to set up a coconut farming business would obviously vary according to location.
The key variables are usually tied to the land (e.g. terrain and contour, soil type) and also farm input costs (e.g. labour costs, fertilizer prices, planting material costs).
Coconut farming is a cash-tree that receives very little attention yet has great adaptation and incredible plasticity features.
It is an undemanding plant which adapts to many soil types and climates.
It resists bad weather conditions and produce continuously from the age of 4 or 7 years to 60 years.
Coconut farming is a gold mine! Let me explain…
Let say you have 1 hectare of land and you plant 178 coconut trees on it. Depending on the specie of coconut you plant, you can start harvesting a minimum of 80 coconut fruits per stand in a year. On your 1 hectare of land, you can produce 14,240 coconuts (178 trees X 80) every year.
FARM SET UP AND PRODUCTION
The best soil for coconut farming is sand-loam.; this is because it can hold and drain water. Choose a suitable site for this with respect to the number of years involved in the activities.
it is usually advisable to use your own land or a land that can be leased for as long as 50 years. If you are purchasing, let it be outskirt of town (suburb) where you can buy land at low price.
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Make pathways in the land, clear grasses, remove shrubs and trees. Plough and harrow the land for easy operation.
Further prepare the land by digging holes of 1m × 1m. Mix the top soil with animal dung such as poultry, pig, cow, goat dung etc. or compost manure, according to research.
Fill the hole to about 50cm – 60cm. Treat the soil with chemical for any trace of termites or any other pesticide.
The coconut is a plant that is largely dependent on the presence and use of water, hence, the planting is done at the beginning of the rainy season (April – May).
The propagation of coconut is mostly done using seedlings which are grown and nurtured in a Nursery.
Seedlings should be 8 – 10 months of age before transplanting for better growth and development.
They are planted immediately or at least 3 days after removal from the nursery to avoid mortality. (Santos et al., 1996).
For each planting hole, an area of soil 1 m in circumference is cleared of all vegetation and leveled.
In planting the seedlings, the holes should be dug 0.3 x 0.3 x 0.3m for well fertile soils and in marginal soils, holes 0.9 x 0.9 x 0.9m are recommended, according to Agriculture Nigeria.
Fertilizer and Nutrition
To ensure efficient growth, the seedling is placed in the hole and back-filled with topsoil mixed with 30g NPK (12-24- 12).
The surrounding soil around the seedling is raked then the seedlings are irrigated adequately.
Irrigation is recommended immediately after planting. As the plant grows, soil is back-filled to the surrounding soil level.
Inter-crop coconut farm with pineapple, banana, groundnut, cassava, sweet potatoes; majorly crops that are smaller in size example legumes etc.
Coconut plants are eco-friendly as such it can accommodate other plants. You can cultivate the following perennial crops at their advance stage; cocoa, cashew etc
It takes 4 – 9 years for coconut tree to reach maturity depending on the variety planted and their agricultural management.
They produce in bunches maturing at the same time. From the time coconut fruits to when it is matured for harvest is about a year. They attain full size within 6 months.
Coconuts are ready for harvest once the nuts turn brownish or yellowish in colour. They sometimes fall down on their own but you can use sticks to harvest them.
Use ladder or rope to get to the top of the tree for the tall ones then use your hand to pluck them.
Harvesting however is done at various points and times with respect to the used for the nut harvested. Harvest for coconut water is done at about 9-11 month stage.
For coconut oil, at the 12 – 13 month stage, the water (liquid endosperm) converts to the white meat (solid endosperm) lining the inside of the endocarp (shell).
Nuts harvested at this stage are often dried to produce copra or wet processed to extract coconut oil.
In practice, the harvesting cycle varies from 45-60 or 90-day periods with high copra and oil recovery. Harvesting too early can affect the quality of the copra in terms of oil content.
There are two common methods of harvesting coconuts; the pole and the climbing methods.
Although both the pole and the climbing methods of harvesting require considerable experience and skill to be performed safely and efficiently, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Also in many cases, dry nuts are allowed to free-fall and then collected from the ground beneath the trees prior to their processing, according to a research by World Atlas.
Coconut can be processed into various products which can be used industrially or as food. Some of these products from coconut processing include;
1. Coconut water
It is extracted from young, green coconuts that have not reached maturity.
2. Coconut oil
This is the most favored opportunity from coconut tree. It is being duped as the most significant because it is the healthiest oil available for human consumption and the best means of reaping all the health benefits of the coconut.
Coconut oil helps people lose body fat, get leaner, and improve their cholesterol levels, hair quality and strength.
3. Coconut meat
This is the thick white lining that covers the inside of the coconut shell.
Coconut meat can be eaten raw, cooked, or toasted. Add it to smoothies, make ice cream with it, or combine it with fresh fruit, according to Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research.
4. Coconut flour
This can be used as a flour substitute, or in addition to other types of flour in recipes. It packs a whopping 5 grams of fiber per 2 tablespoons, and lowers the glycemic index in baked goods (which is a plus for those with diabetes).
5. Coconut milk
Not to be confused with coconut water, this is the meat pulped with water to make a creamy texture similar to cow’s milk.
The taste, consistency, and health benefits makes it a great milk substitute (and of course, it is lactose-free).
Others include coconut chip and coconut candies.
MARKETING AND DISTRIBUTION
As a result of its value and the degree of use, Nigeria in terms of the volume of production produced about 267,500 metric tonnes of coconuts and occupies the 18th position on the world coconut production index, according to data obtained from The World Leaders in Coconut Production as at April 2017.
There is a high demand for coconut in Nigeria and this demand has outstripped the country’s production capacity for several decades.
Compiled by Nnate Nkechi