The Executive Director, National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan,Dr Abayomi Olaniyan, has advised Nigerian farmers to process and export pineapple juice to earn foreign exchange for the country.
Olaniyan gave the advice in Ibusa at a capacity building workshop on pineapple juice processing, which was organised by Delta State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (DARDA) for more than 50 farmers.
The executive director, who was represented by Dr Olutola Oyedele, Director, Research, and Coordinator of NIHORT Project Seven, said that the capacity building workshop was aimed at empowering the farmers to produce pure pineapple juice without the addition of concentrates.
He said that Nigerian farmers had the capacity to compete favourably with their counterparts internationally, particularly in the production of horticultural crops, in which most states had a comparative advantage.
Olaniyan said that the workshop would equip the trainees with requisite knowledge on how to produce high-quality pineapple juice for both local and foreign markets.
“Since the pineapple juice is not concentrated juice, it is healthy for human consumption and it will meet international standards for foreign markets; our farmers can thus earn foreign exchange.
“Besides, the processing of pineapple juice will aid efforts to check the huge post-harvest losses over the years, as the juice will last for up to six months on the counter and the farmers can control their price,’’ he said.
Olaniyan advised the farmers to put into practice what they have learnt, while taking up the challenge to process pineapple juice and earn more income in the end.
On his part, Mr Ben Agama, the Project Manager of DARDA, thanked NIHORT for coming back for the workshop after its initial survey of pineapple farms in the state, as part of efforts to tackle the challenge of post-harvest losses facing pineapple farmers in the area.
He said that NIHORT officials had visited the largest pineapple farm in the state during the survey, adding that the farm in Issele-Uku, Aniocha North Local Government Area (LGA), had over five million pineapple stands.
“We are sure that the training will help the farmers to manage post-harvest losses, while boosting their income,’’.
Some of the trainees said that the challenges facing pineapple farmers in the area included poor roads, produce glut, poor pricing and storage facilities.
Mr Kayode Olasupo, the Manager of the 250-hectare Ifeanyi Pineapple Farms in Issele-Uku, said that the major challenge facing pineapple farming was poor pricing by buyers, lack of processing facilities and the havoc wreaked on farms by rodents.
“We usually experience post-harvest loses due to poor produce pricing occasioned by glut in the seasonal production of pineapple; so, a lot of waste often occurs and as such, we sell the crop at lower prices so as to reduce losses,’’ .
Another farmer, Mr Philip Okorodudu of Oregaha Farms in Uvwie LGA, said that pineapple farmers in the area were operating a large farm via a cooperative arrangement, while engaging in commercial pineapple cultivation.
“However, our challenge is the lack of access roads, particularly during the rainy season, because the peak of pineapple harvests is between end of September and February. We, therefore, find it difficult to move our produce to the market.
“The result is that we record great post-harvest losses but we plead with the government to help us with pineapple processing machines to facilitate our efforts to process, preserve and sell our products, particularly during the scarcity period,’’ Okorodudu said.
The NIHORT team earlier paid a courtesy call on the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Delta, Chief Austin Chikezie, who pledged the support of the state government for the programme.
Chikezie, who was represented by Mr Augustine Oghoro, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, commended NIHORT for the capacity building project.
He promised that the state government, in line with its development agenda, would take over the capacity building activity from where NIHORT stopped so as to boost the welfare of pineapple farmers in the state.