In Nigeria, melon also known as egusi is a popularly known delicacy. In West Africa, the name Egusi is used to refer to plants that are members of the gourd family having seeds of high oil content which also includes watermelon. The Egusi melons described here is a subspecies of the watermelon species. Melon is widely accepted in every area of Nigeria. Egusi or melon farming is also one of the easiest. Unlike other crops in Nigeria, melon is very resistant to most pests and diseases. This makes melon a potentially profitable business venture. This article provides you with information on all you need to grow a successful melon business from the farm to the market in Nigeria.
Melon Business in Nigeria: How to Get Started
Advantages of starting a Melon business
Low cost of production
Even when starting a melon business from scratch, you will not need to spend much on preparations. All you need is a plot of land, melon seeds, and fertilizers. After the melons are ripened, you can then sell them. The cost of expenses will be compensated for after your harvest.
Resistanсe to diseases
Unlike many other crops, melon is highly resistant to most pests and is likely not to suffer from diseases. You will need to weed the field constantly, but you will worry less about diseases.
A seed of melon can produce about 10 heads of melon. One head can sometimes contain more than 150 seeds which will be sold at a good price in the market.
There is a high demand for melon/egusi in various parts of Nigeria. You will not need to worry about target consumers for your product.
Starting Melon (Egusi) Farming in Nigeria
Below are steps to take when starting a melon farm in Nigeria
Site selection and preparation
It is important you choose a land that is suitable for melon farming. Melon seeds thrive in soft and fertile soil. You must choose farmland that has good soil fertility and good water retention capacity. After you have selected your farmland, the next step is to plow or till the ground in preparation for planting. It is at this point that you can also supply the land with sufficient organic content by adding compost manure to the farmland. This would help improve your melon yield. Here are some factors to consider: The land should be flat, well-drained, sandy, with enough sunlight.
This is one of the most important steps when it comes to starting up a melon farm in Nigeria. Good seeds make a good turnout.
Have a good melon (egusi) farming business plan
Every start-up business requires a business plan. This is an important step for you to stand a chance at success in your melon (egusi) farming business. It is especially important you have a business plan if you are starting a melon farm on a commercial basis and not just for your personal consumption.
Aside from being your guide, the melon (egusi) farming business plan is vital so you can access government agricultural loans. Having a business plan also helps you in attracting investors to your farming business in Nigeria.
How to plant your melon
The planting time for melon is usually between the months of April and June which is the start of the raining season. After tilling the soil in preparation for planting, you should raise some beds on which to plant your melon seeds. The plant starts to emerge in 4-7 days. Four weeks after planting, flowering occurs and vines cover the ground completely, suppressing weed growth. Egusi melon can grow on dry to wet conditions. However, the fruits mature only in dry conditions 4 5 months after sowing.
Avoid the cultivation of your melon in an open field. Plant the seeds in places that are sheltered by some trees. While planting, it is recommended that you plant at least 3 seeds in a hole and a maximum of 5 seeds.
You should have a spacing of about 20 inches between the planting holes. Once the seeds start growing into vines, support the vines with stakes.
How to harvest your melon
You are to harvest the melon fruits after they stop enlarging. Melon keeps well for several months in storage. Seed removal from the melon gourd requires breaking the fruit with a hard stick (not a machete as this could slice some of the seeds). You then lay the pieces on the soil for several days or a maximum of two weeks. It is during this time the pulp decays. This produces a strong foul smell, so make sure you do this away from home or residential places.
Wash the seeds from the remaining pulp, then allow the seeds to dry before storage. The seeds need to be dehulled before use as food. After collecting your melon seeds, you can then take them to the market for sale.
Remember that melon seeds are prone to fungal disease-causing agents. Melon seeds can last up to three years when they are properly dried.
As mentioned earlier, Melon (egusi) farming business has a readily available market in almost every part of Nigeria. You can sell your melon seeds to Nigerian markets men and women when you bag the product. You can export egusi to other countries. You can also grind egusi and package it.
The business is highly profitable. Just a single melon stem can yield up to 10 heads to 15 depending on the variety and soil quality. One head can sometimes contain more than 150 seeds. This will sell for good money. If you have a peeling machine, you can sell dry and clean melon seeds directly to retailers. You can transport the melon seeds to other states and localities and sell them at wholesale price
Difference between Watermelon and melon
Egusi Melon plants closely resemble watermelon plants. Both watermelon and melon have a non-climbing creeping habit. However, the pulp of the watermelon fruit is sweet and edible while Egusi Melon has a bitter and inedible fruit pulp. Egusi Melon seeds are larger than watermelon seeds and are also light-colored.