How To Grow Apples In Commercial Quantity In Nigeria – Farmer
How To Grow Apples In Commercial Quantity In Nigeria – Farmer : HASSAN IBRAHIM, KADUNA
Engineer Samuel Okolli is into small-scale apple farming and nursery trees production in Kaduna. In this interview, he says if government supports apple farming, Nigeria will save substantial foreign exchange as all categories of apple can grow in commercial quantity in the country.
How did you venture into apple farming, despite the belief that our environment is not suitable for its growth?
I collected three apple trees from Jakaranda farm owned by the Anglican Church along Kachia road in Kaduna about eight years ago, and through extensive work, I have been able to propagate them to eight trees and we went into further research to test the conventional ones in the market. That is what we have here.
Tell us the processes involved in apple farming?
Farming apple involves series of processes. You don’t eat apple, dig the ground and bury the seed to germinate. You have to create certain condition for it to germinate and that is purely technical. If government is interested and decides to come in, we can help in the area of training the interested farmers.
The process starts from plantation bud to the nursery level and later transplanting in the farm. When we germinate the seed, instead of allowing them to grow full bloom, we bud at the tender age. When we bud them, they start producing stem and flowers. You remove the followers for it to produce a robust stem that will be able to carry the fruits.
How long does it take for an apple tree to produce fruits?
For the tree to produce fruits, it depends on the level of care; if you take good care of apple tree it produces fruit twice a year.
This brings us to the issues of attention. If you treat and handle them very well from the time you grow them to the nursery, within four months it can be ready for grafting and then you transplant to a bigger container to get more nutrients. From there, you will graft it and close the head with nylon not to allow weather or infection to affect it. As they develop leaves inside you remove the nylon, then the healing process starts and from there, you begin to prepare for the fruits.
Our intention this year is to grow up to a thousand seedlings and by the time we graft them, whoever wants to buy can get the trees easily. We sell and give the guidelines for the technical processes.
People talk about Queen apple…
The Queen apples are the conventional apples from Europe. Now you can see that it can also be grown in Nigeria but people used to say it cannot grow here. It can be grown well, produce good fruits even in commercial quantity. The only thing is that it needs “strange” care to grow them; your attention has to be there. You must constantly visit your farm. We expect that the Queen apple we are growing now begins to fruit by December and once it produces and we are satisfied with them, we are going to use it to duplicate more of these conventional apples usually brought from Europe.
You said growing of Queen apple requires “strange” care, how do you mean?
What I mean by strange care is that when you eat apple you buy from the market and plant the seed on the ground it doesn’t germinate, so there are processes of treatment you have to apply to get it to germinate. When they germinate, you can take them into a nursery and from there they grow and duplicate and produce hundreds of seeds.
As I early told you, we duplicated them from the three trees from Jakaranda farm. It may surprise you to know that a good number of apple in circulation around Kaduna are produced here in the state because there are some individuals that come here and buy them. I sell to some gardeners and they are duplicating and selling them.
How did you get the foreign Queen apple seeds?
I bought the foreign apple. We ate them and I planted the seeds. I tried that several times but they refused to grow so we went to the internet to check for what we can do and there was a sort of guidelines and advice. We tried those guidelines and they successfully worked for us. That is how we developed these apple trees and all we are waiting is for them to produce fruits which we can sell in the market because right now we are not fully into its commercial sale.
What are the challenges of growing apple?
There are many challenges like suitable farmland and funds. However, the major challenge in apple farming is how to develop the type of drugs to use in treating them because most of the conventional drugs for the trees in the market do not meet the requirement for apple to yield good fruits.
Assuming we have enough money to get the required drugs into the country, it will boost local apple production because there are many diseases that attack apple trees. So for you to start commercial apple farming, the challenges are more of farmland and diseases but as time goes on, we may have synergy with other farmers outside the country or go to the internet for more ideas on how to handle some of these challenges.
What would you advice government to do to boost apple farming?
We are working toward forming an association, if we get the association on ground, we can approach government and if they are interested, they can help in terms of financing because everything needs money. There are also some species that you can get from abroad, which you can experiment here and see how well they will grow. But what I believe is that what many people said cannot work, can actually work; it only requires attention, interest and commitment just like any other thing you do.
We have good land for apple to grow in Nigeria. Go to South Africa, almost all the apple we eat is from there and since it grows in South Africa, why can’t it also grow here in Nigeria?
Some people talk about climatic conditions, they forget that we can create condition that will make it grow here and save a lot of money. Nigeria can save billions of dollars from boosting apple production in the country. If you know how much Nigeria spends to import apple into the country, it is running into billions of dollars and nobody looks at that.
What advice will you give farmers who will want to go into apple farming?
Farmers who are interested in venturing into apple production should know that it is possible in the country. I want to tell Nigerian farmers that the idea that you cannot grow apple in Nigeria is not true. They can even go into commercial production of apple in this country. If you have 50 trees of apple you go into commercial production.