Jos — As experts explain better farming techniques
Avocado is a fruit with a creamy texture that grow in warm climates. Also known as an alligator pear or butter fruit, the versatile avocado is said to provide a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, and they are a naturally nutrient-dense food, which contain high vitamins and minerals.
Studies show that avocado has other health benefits including improving digestion, decreasing the risk of depression, and protection against cancer.
Numerous other studies have found that a predominantly plant-based diet that includes foods such as avocados can help to decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality, while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
Depending on the varieties, experts generally believe that it usually takes only two to six weeks for the pit to sprout. After that, the plant takes some years to grow large enough to fruit, which it only does in suitable growing conditions.
A renowned avocado farmer in Plateau State and chairman of the farmers' association in Gangare ward of Jos, Dayyib Zachariah Adam said, "once a farmer acquires the seed, he will get a container or sachet water leather and cut the top, thereafter the farmer will mix manure (cow dung) and sand and put the seed inside and water it for about one month."
Thereafter, he said the seed is expected to shoot up.
"When it shoots up, the farmer will then take it to the location he intends to plant and digs the ground up to one feet and puts the plant inside the ground.
"The farmer then covers the stem of the plant with sand to a particular level and allows it a little space with which he will be applying manure from time to time."
According to him, if it is during rainy season, there will be no need for watering of the plant but in dry season, the farmer must water it daily and after three years it is expected to begin to bear fruits.
He said there was no need to apply fertilizer during the nursing and watering period, saying if fertilizer is applied, it might burn the plant.
"However, if the seed is an improved variety, it will not take up to three years to begin bearing fruits," he said.
Why production, sale of avocado is on decline
Avocado is said to be grown largely in Plateau State just as it is the home of many other kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Many avocado farmers, who spoke with our correspondent in the state, said they were having challenges in cultivating it because people don't patronise it as they should.
The farmers also cited poor knowledge of the fruit as one of the problems hampering its production and that as a result people go for other fruits and plants.
Dayyib Zachariah Adam, who has many avocado trees, said people prefer to consume other fruits than avocado because they don't know its health benefits.
"We on the Plateau do not consider it as the kind of food somebody will eat and get the satisfaction that is why patronage is very low.
"Marketers come to buy but the quantity is not that much. So, it is my family that usually consumes a lot of it; he said.
According to him, people prefer farming what they can plant and harvest on time, adding that the long wait for it to begin to bear fruits is also another factor that is making farmers shy away from avocado.
"Even though there are some farmers producing avocado in Plateau, the market is not there, and you will see only few persons selling it at the Terminus market. It is also seasonal and most people don't even know its season.
Another farmer from Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Jeremiah Michael Bitrus, said another challenge with planting avocado is that of preservation, adding that avocado plant is better nurtured in an orchard or a fenced farmland.
He added that the long wait for it to begin bearing fruits is also discouraging as most people prefer fast-moving crops like maize, Irish potatoes, rice, soya beans, groundnut, etc.
According to him, there are varieties of avocado seeds on the Plateau; there are some, which are oily, while the others are watery.
He said the prize of each fruit depends on the size, and that it ranged between N100 and N200.
Meanwhile, a fruits seller at Miango junction in Jos, Mary, said there are foreign as well as local varieties, explaining that she sells one for N200 as well as in baskets.
She said many people don't buy the fruit because they don't know its uses, adding that they go to Farin Gada market to purchase them in bulk.
According to the seller, those who know the benefits of avocado scramble for it, adding that some customers could buy N4000 worth of the fruit at once for their family consumption.
How to improve avocado production
Farmers are of the believe that there is need to modernise the system of avocado production just like we have in mango, orange and other cash crops in which there is foreign and local breeds. Mr. Joseph Ijuh, an Horticulturist, believes that if such a step is taken it will go a long way in getting more farmers to key into the production.
Dayyib Zachariah Adam, a long time avocado farmer, called on the Ministry of Agriculture to sensitize the grassroots farmers on the economic viability of the fruit, as well as assist them with all the palliatives that will make planting and marketing the fruit easier for farmers.
Jeremiah Michael Bitrus, another farmer called on the government to pay greater attention to avocado production not only for the economic benefits but also for the people's health," he added.