Stevia: The untapped goldmine in Nigeria
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a perennial herb found within the Asteraceae family, it is related to daisies, marigolds and sunflowers. This prized species, Stevia rebaudiana, grows in Brazil and Paraguay, where its leaves have been used for hundreds of years to sweeten food and drink.
Stevia matures in 4 months and is harvested every 3 months.It is thereafter produced for 4-5 years. Stevia is a safe, natural, zero-calorie and carbohydrate free sweetener. It has none of the negative side effects associated with sugar suchas diabetes obesity etc. it is currently used by thousands of companies such as Coca Cola, Pepsi amongst others
Stevia is well-suited for sweetening creamy desserts, drinks, fruit, salad dressings and yogurt and tea.
Stevia is sold as Green stevia or White stevia which is white powder or tablets sweeteners for domestic consumption.
Can it be it be grown in Nigeria?
Yes, it is being grown privately by few Nigerians
Stevia requires rainfall of about 150 mm per annum is essential needs to produce a higher amount of stevia leaves. However, Nigeria has 381mm to above 4,064mm average rainfall across its various vegetation zones this will ensure better harvests than in Europe and US
It thrives well within temperatures of 28 oC to 33 oC
How to grow Stevia
It is grownfaster from cuttings from mature plantsthan trying to sprout seeds, especially given the poor germination rate of Stevia seeds.
Pruning is important to maximize leaf production to encourage its branching. Prune always at regular intervals also harvest the leaves from them, or root them in moist potting soil to cultivate additional stevia plants for your farm expansion because A farmer needs 8,000 to 10,000 seedlings per acre
Stevia is currently has no pests. However, termite-infested lands should be treated to prevent the root being eaten during dry spells of weather
Stevia plant grows best in well-drained, rich, red and sandy loam soils. It prefers acidic to neutral soils. Soil pH range should be about 6.0 to 7.5 for its best growth and yield.
What are the economic benefits?
If supported by all tiers of government in Nigeria, Stevia value chains can create 1 million jobs for Nigerians in 3years These include small Farmers, Plantation workers, Nursery businesses, Local Stevia Research scientists, Cottage Extraction Businesses, SMEs and Outgrowers, sellers and resellers and exporters.
Also, nationwide farming of Stevia will attract foreign Investors to site Stevia refineries in Nigeria like Cargill, Tate & Lyle etc
- Stevia yields 2.5 to 3.628 tons per acre per annum with yearly revenue of N5,297,960.40 (i.e $14,514.96) per acre using international price of$4 per kilogram
- Dozens of Online markets e.g Alibaba, PureCircle etc, CocaCola and Pepsi agents buy Stevia from around the world Global demand is estimated at N13 trillion/year.
Kehinde Olatoye Bsc (Agric Biology), Msc (Agric Biology), MBA
Writes via email@example.com