Nigeria has a vast abundance of land, resources, and climatic variations that enable it to grow different varieties of food and cash crops in its agricultural sector.
As a nation with the most immerse Agricultural sector in Africa, the local agricultural industry employs up to 70% of the local workforce and contributes about 40% of the country’s GDP.
One of such agribusiness that contributes to the food and economic value of the country is Watermelon farming in Nigeria.
According to Wikipedia, the worldwide production of watermelon as at 2014 was 111 million metric tonnes, with China accounting for 67% of the total production. This large production rate has influenced watermelon demand positively both locally and internationally, making it a lucrative agribusiness for local farmers to venture into.
Business Opportunities In Water Melon Farming
1). Source of food:
Watermelons are a great source of food as they contain 91% of water and 6% of sugar and can be consumed raw in the form of salad or pickled. Since they’re primarily eaten, venturing into watermelon farming in Nigeria in a bid to sell the watermelons for consumption in the local markets is a great bet.
Watermelons very juicy and can be easily diced in mixed fruits salads or as juice, margaritas, limeade, cocktails, and much more. The watermelon juice can also be blended with other fruits or made into wine, which could in-turn be sold as a branded product.
Facts And Benefits Of Water Melon Planta
- Watermelons originated in southern African countries.
- Watermelons carry a little amount of fat.
- Watermelons are high in protein, magnesium, and vitamin B.
- Watermelon contains fibre (fibre encourages a healthy digestive system).
- The world’s heaviest watermelon was grown by Lloyd Bright of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in 2005. It weighed 268.8 lbs. (121.93 kg).
- Watermelons help reduce both your body temperature and blood pressure.
- Vitamin A helps keep the skin moisturized. A cup of watermelon contains nearly one-quarter of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A.
- According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Drinking watermelon juice before an intense workout helps reduce next-day muscle soreness and heart rate.
- Watermelon seeds are roasted and eaten in some Asian countries.
- Watermelon can be processed into jam, juice, cocktail.
- Watermelon has a neutral flavour.
- Watermelon is beneficial in treating erectile dysfunction.
- Watermelons are propagated through seed.
- Watermelons can keep you hydrated since they contain 96% water.
Types Of Water Melon Varieties
1). Sugar Baby Watermelon:
This type of watermelon weighs around 8-10 pounds and takes a period of about 78 days to fully mature. They are also called icebox type because of their small size, since they are small enough to fit into a refrigerator. This sugar baby watermelon usually has flavour red flesh and a light green rind with dark stripes.
2). Crimson Sweet Watermelon:
This type of watermelon weighs around 25kg and takes a period of about 85-90 days to fully mature. The crimson sweet is largely known for its large sugar content and bright deep red flesh. When more than one row of crimson sweet is to be planted, they should only be planted at about 36 to 60 inches apart.
3). Charleston Gray:
This type of watermelon usually grows yearly at a maximum height of 1.46. On average they weigh about 25kg and may take up to 85 days to mature. The Charleston Gray has red, fiberless flesh and a tough, medium-thick grey-green rind often used for making watermelon rind pickles.
4). Yellow Crimson sweet:
This type of watermelon is originally from Africa. They can weigh around 13.6kg and may take up to 80 days to mature. This type of watermelon has bright yellow-orange flesh with large black seeds, an excellent flavour, and moderate sugar content.
Setting Up A Water Melon Farming Business
The first step to planting cucumbers is to acquire a rich wide expanse of land. It is important to find a sunny spot because Watermelon plants require full sunlight and a well-drained soil to grow properly. They can also be planted on ridges/beds based on the type of soil.
Watermelons won’t grow well in waterlogged soil, and the soil should also have a good amount of organic matter in it, especially manure, as these will give the plants the nutrients they require.
2). Planting the watermelon:
Watermelon seeds can be planted directly outside. Under a soil temperature of at least 70°F and prefer a soil pH between 6 and 6.8. This will avoid poor germination.
If more than one row will be planted, they can be spaced at 6 feet by 6 feet apart.
The best watermelon planting period in the Southern part of Nigeria are March, June, July, and September. The best time to plant watermelons in the northern part of Nigeria are in May and July.
3). Caring For The Crop:
Some things to do to care for the watermelon crop during its growth stages are:
- Using black plastic to keep the soil warm, prevent weed growth, and ensure the developing fruits are kept clean.
- As the watermelon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, you need to ensure they get 1 to 2 inches of water every week.
- The soil be kept moist, but not waterlogged. You should strive to water at the vine’s base every morning, but avoid overwatering or wetting the leaves. The moment you realise the fruits are growing, you should reduce watering, especially as dry weathers usually produces the sweetest watermelons.
- In your application of fertilizer, ensure it more nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium is applied. But when flowering starts, switch to a fertilizer with less nitrogen.
- As the watermelon fruit starts to ripen, you can prevent rot by carefully lifting it and putting straw in between the fruit and the soil.
Watermelons ripen at least 2 weeks after they are picked. To know if the watermelons are ripe, either tap the watermelon to see if it sounds hallow, check the colour as a ripe melon will have a yellowish-cream colored bottom, or observe when the vines start to wither.
Challenges of Watermelon farming.
Some of the challenges of Watermelon farming in Nigeria and many parts of Africa include:
- Lack of experience.
- Pest and diseases
- Low and unstable investment in agricultural research.
- Financial challenges.
- Low and unstable investment in agricultural research.
- Marketing challenges.
- Weed control.
Watermelon farming in Nigeria can be a Lucrative and profitable agribusiness, due partly to its vast market demands and largely on your own ability to build a wide supply chain network. If you’re looking for an agribusiness to venture into, watermelon farming in Nigeria is another option to explore.