Orange is an important fruit here in Nigeria. It is very rich in Vitamin C, folic acid and it is also as a good source of fiber. It also contains a host of other important nutrient element like folate, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium and copper.
They are also known to be fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free. Citrus species are grown for the juice of their fruits. In Nigeria, orange is grown in any part of the country as the climatic conditions in the country has proven to be suitable for its growth.
Orange is widely rated as the most planted fruit in Nigeria. About 930,000 tons of citrus fruits are produced annually from an estimated 3 million hectares of land (FAO, 2008).
Bulk of this is produced in Benue State where most of the farms are located in the rural areas with poor road networks and transport facilities.
This is one problem which affects production in Nigeria as a significant percentage of the product are spoilt or denatured before getting to the consumers.
In Nigeria, the major market for this fruit is the fresh fruit market and the processed fruits market. Major producing states in Nigeria include Benue, Nassarawa, Kogi, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Taraba, Ekiti, Imo, Kwara, Edo, and Delta.
There are three major varieties of oranges, these are sweet oranges, bitter oranges, and mandarins. Sweet oranges are the most popular in this part of the world.
In Nigeria, sweet oranges can be eaten in its raw form, it can also be used to produce fruit juice and other end products like frozen concentrates, fragrant peels, pectin, flavours e.t.c.
Although there has been an improvement in orange production in Nigeria over time, challenges still being faced in the areas of production include poor harvest, post harvest – processing, marketing and storage plus a host of others to be discussed here.
This is mainly to enlighten prospective investors about the kind of problems they are likely to face. Some of these problems include:
The dwindling economy of the country has made it difficult for interested entrepreneurs to access loans and grants enough to enable them start an orange farm.
Unavailability of funds and lack of capital for prospective investors as well as funds for continuous management of the farm is one of the major problems affecting commercial orange farmers in Nigeria.
So it is important for an intending entrepreneur to make sure there is an assured source of capital in place before setting up structures.
2. Inadequate Government Support
Lack of government support for orange farmers is also one of the major problems facing farmers, the government have not given enough assistance in terms of seedlings subsidy, motorable roads to areas with high concentration of orange farms.
The government have also failed to produce storage facilities for farmers. Lack of adequate electricity have also affected processing industries, leading to the closure of many.
3. Poor Road Network
Inaccessibility of rural areas where large amount of the fruits are produced due to poor road network is also a serious problem for producers, the fruits are usually prone to spoilage due to the bad roads, and long hours of travel which is also caused by bad roads. This usually leads to grave losses for the farmers and buyers.
4. Lack Of Modern Cultural Practices
Most orange farmers and intending farmers usually follow old and outdated cultural practices, most of which has been in use for more than 20 years.
Most orange farmers fail to make research or seek expert opinion and advice concerning the latest and most productive cultural practice applicable, thereby exposing their farms to low productivity and ultimately loss of investment.
5. Pest and Diseases
Another major problem affecting orange farmers in Nigeria is the issue of pest and disease infestation, premature fruit drop due to attack by nocturnal fruit piercing moths, termite damage to stem bark and tree roots and gumosis as well as death of budded seedlings.
This pest and disease of the orange crop can easily spread from one tree to the other if not tackled on time, and most times reduces productivity.
6. Adverse weather condition
During the long dry season in Nigeria, Orange crop suffers severe soil moisture stress and this leads to high seedling mortality and reduction in production size as even the matured trees are usually noted to wilt during very low supply of water.
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7. Labour shortages
The orange orchard needs continuous maintenance which involves weeding and application of organic manure and fertilizer.
Orange farmers have reported difficulty in getting labour, especially for a large farm and in cases where labour is gotten, it is usually for a higher price.
In farm’s situated in rural areas, getting mechanized forms of labour is also a serious problem for entrepreneurs who are starting afresh.
In order to solve the aforementioned problems, the following should be considered by the government and relevant stakeholders
1. Government should endeavor to support the farmers by supplying seedlings, fertilizers, pest and disease control chemicals to farmers freely or at a very subsidized cost.
Storage facilities should also be provided for the farmers to avoid losses and spoilage. Agricultural extension services intended to provide integrated approach to fruit cultivation and modern fruit storage facilities should be introduced by the government.
2. Local fruit industries and fruit processing equipment should be provided so as to increase industrial demand for the fruit. An enabling environment should also be created for already existing local processing industries to help boost production.
3. Government should also formulate policies that will enable the exportation of this fruit in large quantity as well as its processed product.
Efforts should also be put in place to ban the importation of similar products obtained from orange processing as this will also help boost orange production as well as putting a form of relevance on this greatly overlooked trade
5. Government should encourage interesting farmers by providing soft loans and credit facilities as well as providing them with lands.
6. Farmers should endeavor to always make inquiries concerning the best available cultural practices to be adopted for the best yield.
7. Farmers should also endeavor to make water available for the plants during the dry season as it is a known fact that government can not supply irrigation for all fruit farms across the country, so it is necessary that water supply during the long dry season is also taken into consideration during planning.
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