Egusi soup is one of the most commonly consumed foods in most Nigerian states, especially the Eastern regions.
It is an uncomplicated one pot meal that is often accompanied with swallows like fufu, amala, eba, pounded yam and many others. Some people also serve it with rice and other other foods that are not swallows.
Egusi business in Nigeria, how profitable?
There is a very high demand for egusi both within Nigeria and outside her borders that you wouldn’t have to be bothered on how to get customers. One shocking thing is that many Nigerian entrepreneurs are yet to see the goldmine in egusi business.
Like I earlier said, the egusi soup is one of the most loved soup in Nigeria. In most Nigerian homes, the egusi soup takes precedence over every other soup.
The name ‘egusi’ originated from the Igbo tribe, but the soup is still widely consumed in the other tribes. For example, the Yorubas call it ‘efo elegusi’ while the Hausas call it ‘miyan gushi’.
Other names that people often use to address the ‘wild melon’ include vine of sodom, colocynth, wild gourd, bitter apple, desert gourd and bitter cucumber.
Melon producing states in Nigeria
Melon seed is widely grown in Nigeria, in fact, Nigeria accounts for about 60% of the total production in West Africa. The areas of high melon seed production include Benue, Enugu, Kogi, Taraba and Nasarawa states.
You will also see people planting the melon in Imo, Abia, Anambra and Ebonyi States. This is satisfy the demand for the product.
How to farm melon
The melon is planted the same was as other crops like watermelon, maize and okra. While the egusi seeds can be planted in nursery, planting them directly to the field is advisable or more preferable due to their fragile nature. Any sudden shock or injury on the crop can result in death or delay in growth.
Let’s go through the steps you should take to start egusi farming business:
• Land selection/preparation
Melon seeds require just the right amount of water to yield better results. The best soil for planting the seeds are the sandy-loam or slightly clayey soil rich in organic matters.
Immediately after selecting the soil, you will proceed to the tilling stage to prepare it for cultivation. If you’d be farming in the South South regions, you might not bother about making ridges and beds because the land is already arable. In the other hand, if your choice farmland is hard, it is advisable you first till or plot the ground.
In addition, avoid planting the seeds in waterlogged areas because they won’t survive. Like I earlier said, melon seeds do well with just the right amount of water. The best pH for planting is 6.0-7.0.
The best time for planting the melon seeds is between April and June. The seeds are planted with the shell. You can drop 2 to 3 seeds into a hole of 2cm and cover lightly with soil. A 2m by 2m spacing should be kept while planting the seeds and the seeds can be inter-planted with cassava.
As you should already know, the egusi plants grow into vines, so you will have to support the vines once they start growing. The melon seeds start maturing at 4 -5 months, and depending on the kind of seeds and soil quality, a melon stem can yield a produce of about 10-15 heads.
• Application of manure
You should apply fertiliser in every stage of their development, ie; germination, sprouting, flowering and fruiting. It is preferable you go for the organic manure like animal dung, but when using inorganic, go for NPK 15 15 15 and urea.
The ground cover by the egusi crops suppresses the weeds, so you won’t have to weed after four weeks of planting. However in its early stage, you still need to watch out for weeds and clear them for optimum yield.
The nature of the egusi makes it suitable for inter planting with maize, cassava and other crops. You will just need to weed the farm once after planting the melons until they are harvested.
• Pest/disease control
Common pests that might affect your egusi plants include fruit flies, mites and whiteflies. You can control the pests by applying insecticides and pesticides.
About the diseases, a common disease that might affect the crop is the mosaic, a viral disease that might lead to a stunted growth in the plants.
The melons typically mature within four months after planting. They can be harvested as soon as they stems dry or immediately the melon gourds turn from green to a yellowish-white colour. Kindly note that melons are not like the watermelon, so if not picked quickly, the’d start cracking.
Immediately after harvesting, the gourds will be broken with a hard stick and left for a maximum of two weeks to decompose. The next step after decomposition is de-hulling of the seeds into a big bowel for washing. Wash as many times until they’re clean for drying and storage.
Marketing your egusi shouldn’t be an issue because it already has a relatively large market. You can either sell directly to consumers or supply to various wholesalers and consumers in the markets.
Restaurants, hotels, eateries and schools (boarding houses) will also be a good target as they use them regularly in large quantities
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