In this article, we shall be looking at how to start watermelon farming business in Nigeria in order to enlighten you on the processes involved from pre-planting all through to the harvesting and selling of the watermelons in the market to the consumers/customers in need of them. Do kindly read along to get the necessary information needed to set up this business.
In Nigeria today, it is becoming the new normal to see many young people owning farmlands and taking to agriculture on a full time basis to grow fruits as a business. One of the farm produce making waves is watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), a soft, long-season crop and member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes squash, pumpkin, cucumber, muskmelon and gourd.
People are venturing into watermelon business in Nigeria because of the high demand for it and most especially, it’s nutritional benefits, as it has cancer combating properties, 91% water, 6% sugar, low fat, vitamin C, and carotenoids such as lycopene. Watermelon is a variety of the melon plant that is composed of a thick green rind and watery flesh which is characteristically bright red when ripe and contains black seeds.
This fruit is generally loved by growers because it takes a maximum of 75-90 days from the time it was sown for it to be harvested and this generally means that you can plant watermelons four times in a year and make great profits from your abundant harvest depending on the size of the farmland you are using for your watermelon farming business in Nigeria.
If you have either a large or small land space, depending on the size of your land, you can commence planting your watermelons but you will need to follow some procedures as we shall see during the course of this article. Large scale watermelon farming business in Nigeria is the best way to do this business as it guarantees you great returns on investment.
Once you have the desire to go into this business and own a good land space, you can begin your watermelon farming business as soon as possible. The possible return on investment for a farmer who ventures into this business is high and with the great profits, one can sustain the business and improve their earnings significantly from it per year.
This is because watermelon is naturally in high demand in the marketplace, and since it is very marketable and financially rewarding, and the start-up costs for this farming business is not too expensive, many farmers are bound to make significant profits in the sales of their produce once they are harvested and transported to the market.
WHERE AND WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO PLANT WATERMELONS IN NIGERIA?
Watermelon thrives in both forest and savanna vegetation zones in Nigeria. This means that it can be planted both in the northern and southern part of the country and it will do just fine but you should take note that the time of planting varies from north to south. Watermelon is best planted both at the beginning of the rainy season as well as towards the end of it.
Many farmers who are into watermelon business in Nigeria in the north could plant this fruit crop in mid May and late August for early and late production respectively, while farmers in the southern part of the country can plant their watermelons between mid March and April ending or early September.
With functional irrigation however, watermelon can be planted all year round in the northern part of the country. Kindly take note that in order to perform optimally, watermelons require water in regulated quantities and this is why planting should be targeted towards the beginning or ending parts of rainy seasons.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE ON HOW TO START WATERMELON FARMING BUSINESS IN NIGERIA
In order to start your watermelon business in Nigeria, the following processes should be followed.
WATERMELON SEED SELECTION
If you want to venture into watermelon business in Nigeria and be very good at it with little regrets, then you should source for improved seeds. Improved watermelon seeds in Nigeria can be bought from accredited seeds and agro-allied inputs suppliers around the country.
Most standard watermelon seeds are usually packaged in sealed containers and tin cans detailing their certification and expiry dates, germination percentage and so on. If you buy roadside watermelon seeds, it means that you will be planting second filial generation seeds of hybrids, which are seeds that are extracted from fresh watermelons that you normally purchase on the road, and this can reduce your harvest by over 50 per cent.
LAND PREPARATION FOR PLANTING YOUR WATERMELON
Land preparation for planting your watermelons simply involve the processes of land clearing, plowing, and harrowing to break the soil and open it up for adequate oxygen. You can make seed beds or ridges for your watermelon and this is beneficial to your plant as it allows the soil to drain excess water, especially in forest vegetation zones.
Kindly take note that watermelon does not tolerate water logging, if it is planted on heavy soil, ridging will help the soil drain excess water. If however, you are planting on loamy soil, watermelons are usually planted on the flat land after harrowing. Mechanical land preparation is faster, better and cheaper, but a manual land preparation can be done if there is no access to tractors, ridgers and harrowers.
PLANTING YOUR WATERMELON SEEDS
Before planting your watermelon seeds, you must have sprayed the prepared land with vegetable-compatible pre-emergence herbicides and waited for some days to get the land truly ready for the process ahead. Once that is done, you can now plant your seeds.
You may plant in phases so as to allow different batches of harvest if you have a large farmland but if you have a small farmland, you can as well plant every watermelon seed available to you in a day.
Endeavour to space your seeds adequately. The ideal spacing for your watermelon seeds should be one metre by one metre, or you can do one metre by seventy-five centimetres on a large piece of land.
WATERMELON WEED CONTROL
Weeds compete for essential nutrients in the soil with watermelon seeds and weed infestation is something you should completely avoid if you want your watermelons to grow properly. In order to control weed infestation, make use of pre-emergence vegetable selective herbicides just after land preparation, and you can apply your herbicides for about ten or more days before planting your watermelon seeds.
This will help with significantly reducing weed growth on your farm and also reduce manual weeding to just once or twice before you harvest your crops. Farmers cultivating on small farmlands control weed by covering the floor with nylons, but commercial application can save cost, and prevent time wasting.
Watermelon inhibits weed growth if accurate plant spacing is followed. This way, the foliage and vines spread and form a canopy over the weeds, preventing their growth.
PROTECTION OF YOUR WATERMELONS
You will need to ensure that your watermelon seeds are well protected from the time you first planted it. If you do not protect your watermelons from insects and fungi, you may experience huge losses and low crop yield.
Ensure to spray your watermelons with contact and systemic insecticides and fungicides from fourteen days after planting and do this every other fourteen days but you must stop applying these insecticides and fungicides twenty days before harvesting your crops. If you successfully protect your watermelons from weeds, insect infestation and fungi, you will experience a bountiful harvest.
COST REQUIREMENTS FOR PLANTING YOUR WATERMELONS
The cost requirements for planting your watermelons depending on the size of your land is between ₦50,000 – ₦300,000. Let’s assume that you are a commercial farmer planting on one hectare of land, clearing, plowing and harrowing the land mechanically would cost about ₦40,000.
Sourcing for your improved watermelon seeds, may cost you about ₦25,000, planting and weeding labour should cost you about ₦70,000, four bags of fertilizer and application labour can cost around ₦40,000, insecticides and application labour, ₦40,000, sprayer, ₦15,000 and any other expenses may cost around ₦30,000.
If you are planting on a small piece of land, say one plot, you may not have to spend that much to take care of all the processes involved in cultivating your watermelons.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)
A watermelon mini truck containing 500 units of the crop is sold for around ₦50,000 – ₦70,000 or more depending on your location. More mini trucks of 500 units each mean more money for you. You may decide to sell each unit of the 500 watermelons between ₦300 – ₦500 and make more money. The business is indeed very lucrative, you just have to determine to go all out for it and sell your farm produce at strategic places.
In order to know if your watermelon is ripe for harvest, you will need to watch the tendril that is very close to the watermelon stem. A tendril is a modified stem that is slender in shape and spirally coiled opposite the base of watermelon on the vine, and checking the tendrils is the most reliable way of all the ways to determine if your watermelons are ripe.
If the tendrils are brown and dried up, this indicates that your watermelon is ripe but the challenge with this method is that with some varieties of watermelon, the tendril tends to dry and drop off more than one week before the watermelon is fully ripe, and you will have to sample it to determine whether to start harvesting or not.
You can also determine if the watermelon is ripe by checking the colour of the bottom spot, where the melon sits on the ground. As the watermelon ripens, the spot turns from almost white to rich yellow. Also, all watermelons lose the powdery or slick appearance on the top and take on a dull look.
MARKETING YOUR WATERMELON
After harvesting, you can load your watermelons in trucks or pick up vans and locate large markets, supermarkets, and many other strategic places where you know and are sure to make good sales.
Watermelons are great crops to plant and one good thing about this farm produce is that you can use a small land if you don’t have a large one to grow the crops about three to four times in a year with drip irrigation.
Planting watermelons during the dry season with a mini drip irrigation facility does better and fetches in more income. This process also allows for a larger plant population on the plots seeing that with it, there is no weed competition with the watermelons, and minimal weed and pest infestation leads to a bountiful harvest in the off season as well as better sales and better income generation.