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Plantation Agriculture - How to start

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Nigeria is truly a land that is flowing with milk and honey as adjudged by many and the land is very rich in its yields too. This is what makes Nigeria a prime site for the successful launch of any agricultural venture. The land is very suitable or planting and yields a lot of   good crops of diverse nature with there being nearly no plant that can’t survive under our climate also.

 This is what makes agriculture as a field one of the most lucrative businesses that you can venture into. Now, you might want to ask a question of what brand of agriculture is advised for business and I would reply you that for a commercial scale business, looking to plantation agriculture is a nice way to start.

Plantation Agriculture Definition:
Plantation agriculture is simply the development and cultivation of a very large expanse of land usually for the purpose of raising one certain kind of plant or crop for commercial purposes. It is also a capital intensive mode of agriculture in which machinery and advanced labour is directed towards the raising of a crop on an extended land area for the sole aim of selling those crops out and making profits. There are actually a number of such crops out there that can be cultivated on a plantation and they are grouped under two headings – the cash crops and the food crops.

The cash crops are as their name suggests, the major money makers in the agricultural sector. They are crops that are grown usually over a long period of time to serve a special commercial and industrial purpose. They are usually the main bridges between the agricultural sector and the industrial world in the kinds of applications that they find there. Examples of cash crops are cocoa (used for beverages, coffee, chocolate candy, etc.), rubber (for tires, clothing materials, bands, synthetic resins etc.), cotton (used in the textile and ginnery industries), jute (also used in the cotton and textile industry) and so on. Cash crops re also a major means of foreign exchange for their farmers.

Food crops on the other hand are grown to feed the populace. They are the majority of crops that we find on display in the local markets and purchase in desired quantities for domestic consumption. Such examples of food crops grown on plantations are plantain, wheat, rice, yam, cassava and the likes. Basically, most of the food crops can be cultivated on a plantation.
For those willing to go into plantation agriculture, what would you need to do?

    1.  Draw up a Business Plan
We cannot hammer on this point enough. You need to have a business plan before you venture into any business at all, especially one of this magnitude. You are expected to sit down and think about what your business would be about, what kind of crop(s) to cultivate, the labour to be employed, potential clients, customers and earnings and every other thing that pertains to your business. A very detailed and impressive business plan would open doors to loans and grants for you should you need them because investors would be able to see the seriousness and prospect in your businesses against a shabby and rushed plan. Take everything into consideration when drawing your business plan and make it your drawing board when changes need to be effected in the business later.

     2. Capital
Plantation agriculture is a very capital intensive project and can be very long term depending on the amount of time you are willing to put into it and the type of crops you want to start with. It is advisable (although not compulsory) that newcomers start out with food crops as these would mature for harvest within a year or two as against cash crops that might take up to five years or more to get ripe for harvest. This is advised so that these start-up entrepreneurs would be able to make back their money year after year before they start looking to invest into the long term. If you have been in the business for a while, there is no harm in trying out a new field and adding one or two cash crops to your lit of plantation crops.

     3. Land
To practice plantation agriculture, you would need as much land as you can get at a stretch. When picking out the land, put a lot of things into consideration. The first thing is the kind of crop you want to deal in because different crops have different climatic and soil needs. Make sure the land even scales this bar first before further consideration. Next, estimate the size you want of a farm and translate this to the amount of land you would need. Don’t go about buying lands in fragments and think you are starting a plantation. No, that is totally out of it. Also consider your capital before buying the land. While you may agree with the landlord to pay for the land in installments, you could also opt to get the land on a long term lease instead of wanting to own it at all.  The choice you make should be dependent on factors as advised by your business plan above.
     4. Choose the crop to grow
At this stage, it is important that you now choose one crop and stick with it. You could decide to either farm a cash crop or cultivate a good crop. It would be dependent on the land, capital and passion you have for any one you might have chosen. Upon picking, get the seedlings or any other mode of propagation that your cop has and be ready to start planting


    5.  Labour
Plantation farming is mostly capital intensive. This means that you would be using more of machines than humans. You would need to get machinery to prepare your land (tilling, ploughing, harrowing etc.) and at the end of a successful year, a harvester would also be required to bring in the goodies. Asides heavy machinery, you would be employing the services of consultants, extension officers and other agricultural personnel to give you pieces of advice on the running of your farm, welfare of your crops and other best practices. Plan all of these into your capital base so it doesn’t get over whelming and frustrating.

After all these, all you need do is just sit back and wait for your crops to mature. Then, you can ship them off to the market and start reaping the fruits of your labour.