By Abdulmalik Adetola Lawal
Tangerine farming in Nigeria holds a relatively recent history that has evolved over the past century. This journey highlights the resilience of both the fruit and the farmers who have cultivated it. Tangerines, also known as mandarin oranges, were introduced to Nigeria during the era of British colonial rule. The British brought various citrus varieties, including tangerines, to Nigeria for cultivation. These early efforts laid the foundation for tangerine farming in the country.
Tangerine cultivation began on a modest scale in southern Nigeria, particularly in states like Lagos, Ogun, and Oyo. The favorable climate in these regions provided an ideal environment for citrus production, and tangerine orchards started to take root.
As awareness of the economic potential of tangerines grew, farming practices expanded. Farmers recognized the demand for this citrus fruit, both domestically and in international markets. The expansion of tangerine orchards contributed to the diversification of Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
Over time, various tangerine varieties were introduced and cultivated in Nigeria. Among them, the “Dancy” and “Ponkan” varieties gained popularity for their sweet and juicy characteristics. These varieties became staples in the Nigerian tangerine market.
However, Tangerine farming faced challenges that included pests, diseases, and a lack of modern farming techniques. Issues such as citrus canker and citrus greening disease affected crop yields and fruit quality, posing significant hurdles for farmers.
Recognizing the potential of tangerine farming, the Nigerian government initiated programs to promote citrus cultivation, including tangerines. These programs included research, extension services, and the distribution of improved citrus varieties to farmers.
Nigeria’s tangerine industry saw growth in export opportunities, particularly to European and Middle Eastern markets. Exporters worked diligently to meet international quality standards, opening doors to global trade and increasing the economic potential of tangerine farming.
In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to modernize tangerine farming practices in Nigeria. This includes the adoption of improved irrigation methods, pest control measures, and post-harvest handling techniques to enhance both productivity and quality.
Tangerine farming contributes significantly to rural livelihoods and Nigeria’s agricultural economy. It provides income for smallholder farmers and supports local processing industries, such as tangerine juice production.
Despite progress, challenges like citrus greening disease, market fluctuations, and infrastructure limitations continue to affect tangerine farming in Nigeria. Overcoming these challenges remains a priority for the industry’s growth and sustainability.