Soybean being called Glycine max, is among the species of legume and widely grown for its edible bean which has numerous uses. In Nigeria, it grows majorly in the middle belt accounting for 65-75% of the production in Nigeria.
On average, soybeans contain 40% protein and are a very nutritious grain legume. It can be used directly for food or processed into soy milk, cooking oil, infant weaning foods, and other products. It can also be used for feed production due to its high protein content.
Soybeans form root nodules which contain bacteria called RHIZOBIA. Nitrogen is fixed by this bacteria and transformed into a form that can be used by soybeans for growth.
Also, Nigeria is the largest producer of Soybean in West Africa, and its major producing states are Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Oyo, Jigawa, Taraba, Borno, Benue, Bauchi, Lagos, Sokoto, Plateau, Zamfara and Abuja FCT.
However, recent market development activities in Nigeria by the American Soybean Association’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) have generated enormous interest in value-added soy products and soy-based food ingredients.
Food processors such as bakeries, dairies, beverage manufacturers and snack producers are now incorporating soy products in their production processes largely on account of the nutritional and health benefits and cost-effectiveness as protein substitutes and extenders.
Best market prospects in this segment include: soy flour used to fortify other foods (bakeries), textured soy protein used as a protein substitute in snacks and soups, soy protein concentrates used as an additive in foods and beverages, and soy protein isolates used as food improver.
Nigeria’s soybean output is forecast to increase to 510,000 MT in 2011/12, up from 480,000 MT in 2010/11. The increase in output is attributed to favorable weather in Nigeria’s soybeans production belt. Compared to the erratic pattern in 2010, rainfall was favorable both in terms of volume and distribution in 2011. Also, acreage increased because of the prevailing attractive prices. The estimates are based on available government data and field visits to Nigeria’s soybeans production belt.
Despite this steady increase, domestic output continues to lag behind rising demand. Higher production is constrained by low yield levels resulting from the high cost of seeds and the scarcity of superphosphate fertilizers.
Average yield levels are approximately 1.2 MT/ha. Soybeans are produced on smallholder farms averaging no more than one hectare or 2.47 acres; as a result it is non-mechanized. In Nigeria soybean cultivation starts in May/June with land clearing, and harvesting normally occurs in late October through November every year.
The crop is harvested 3 – 4 months after planting, depending on the time of sowing and seed variety. Benue State is the dominant soybean producing area but several other states, such as Kaduna, Plateau, and Nasarawa are increasing production.
To further buttress, Malnutrition is endemic in Nigeria and soybeans are a near-perfect crop to address the problem. Soybeans are affordable as they cost only one-fifth of the price of beef and poultry yet carry twice the protein as these animal products and also offer essential amino acids. Soybeans are also good for the environment because they require fewer insecticide sprays. They also fix atmospheric nitrogen and thus reduce fertilizer used by farmers.
Soybeans is yet another type of plantation with numerous benefits which is not being taken into consideration by the Nigerian government. The diverse benefits of this plantation to almost all agro-food processing sectors can be used for economic revitalization by the Nigerian government.