Date palm production is another gold mine that is yet to be fully exploited. The few farmers that engage in commercial cultivation of the desert tree smile to the bank with large sums of naira at every harvest season.
Jigawa State date palm farmers enjoy double harvesting seasons as the tree bears fruits twice in a year. At each season of harvest, farmers reap a different category of fruit as the tree bears a different date nut at each harvest.
Date palm gives maximum yield at the period of dry season harvest, which usually covers the months of March and April while the second period gives half of what is realised in the first harvest and it covers the months of July and August.
The business of date nuts is steadily thriving in Jigawa State over the years with the number of farmers and traders increasing by the day.
The state’s arable land is considered to be the most suitable for the cultivation of date palm in the country, hence the massive cultivation of the tree.
The rapid growth in the production of palm trees in the state is reducing the mass importation of Dan Agadez, a popular date nut from Niger Republic.
The Nigerian market is a popular destination for Dan Agadez even though they only imported the consignment that might have been stored for years which might have developed one form of maggot or the other.
The recent arrival of various species of date nuts from Jigawa date palm plantation which is generally referred to as ‘Dan Hausa’ dominated the entire Nigerian market.
At present, Dan Hausa only competes with date nuts from Mali and Saudi Arabia.
Gujungu, Sara and Shuwarin markets are some of the major centres of date nuts trade in Jigawa State as people from all parts of the country troop in for bulk purchases.
The month to Ramadan, which most often coincides with the harvest period, turns out to be the peak of date nuts trading and consumption time.
The sharp increase in the supply of the stuff is not unconnected to the corresponding increase in the demand of the product at the Ramadan fast period.
Muslims were enjoyed to break their fast with the nut, hence the high demand especially, in the Muslim dominated areas.
Speaking, the chairman of Date Palm Growers (DPG) in Jigawa State, Abubakar Yakubu, said there were about 1,500 date palm growers in the state.
He said date palm cultivation was not like other forms of farming as it takes a farmer five years before he begins to enjoy the fruit of his labour.
Although it takes such long time, he said, once it begins to yield, it is not only a ceaseless process but requiring little or no labour for maintaining the trees.
On the competiveness of the Dan Hausa date nut, the chairman said, it was not only taking over from Dan Agadez but also capturing the Nigerien market.
According to him, Dan Hausa enjoys a comparative advantage over Dan Agadez because it is sweeter, softer, full of fiber and most importantly free of maggot whereas the Dan Agadez is hard to crack and chew because at times one needed to wet it for an hour or so to be softer before consumption and it was always maggots infested.
Unlike in the past, where only traditional farmers were involved in date palm production, retirees who are well informed are now into the business and that has increased the production.
“We produce about five different species of Dan Hausa. There is Zabia which is big in size and looks like the popular Saudi Arabian Ajhuwan date. It is sweet and full of fiber but expensive.
“Farin Dabino has small seed, full of fiber and second to Ajhuwan in quality while Takanda is big in size and somewhat greenish at ripened stage.
“Loko is the sweetest among them all. It is soft, watery and has a small seed while Dan Kanju is another specie with two different formations at a ripened stage. The other end dries up while the other side looks yellowish and full of moisture.
“At the peak of harvest, which is usually in the first season, a farmer can reap as much as N150,000 from only one palm tree. In Jigawa, we have farmers that have over 1,000 date palm trees in their plantation. So you can imagine the turnover at the end of the two harvesting seasons,” he said.
Dahiru Shehu, a Dan Hausa date nut trader in Shuwarin village of Kiyawa Local Government Area told Daily Trust that they purchased their stuff in cartons and sold in retail quantity to consumers.
According to him, the price of the commodity depended on the category of the date nut saying, a carton of Loko date nut cost as much as N53,000 while Takanda which is low in quality cost about N35,000.
He said at the peak of their business, a retailer could sell as much as three big cartons of date nuts a day, adding that most of their customers are commuters.
“We sell a variety of date nuts. We trade in Dan Agadez, Dan Mali and Dan Hausa. These days, the demand for Dan Hausa is fast increasing, therefore, it sells better than the other products.
“In our community, Shuwarin, apart from the few lazy ones, we don’t have jobless youth. We are all engaged in date nut trading and it is paying well because one can realise as much as N10,000 in a day, depending on one’s capital.”