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Nigeria embraces Malay apple as backyard moneymaker

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With a harvest potential of 1,000 apples a tree every year, minimal management, and the ability to live for more than a century, the Malay apple is being embraced by Nigerians as a backyard moneymaker.

Originally from Malaysia, the fruit is common across Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. But growing strictly in the tropics it is slowly inching across African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana.

Gbenga Akinyemi, an agricultural scientist has been at the forefront of spreading its cultivation in West Africa.

“I was introduced to the fruit while visiting my aunt’s place in Lagos in 2005. It would fruit like crazy and since we could not eat all of them we would invite people to pick them. We assumed they were taking them home only to later learn they were being sold at the nearby Balogun Market,” he said.

While there was clear money to be made from the apples, as a recent graduate from the Federal College of Agriculture in Ondo state, Akinyemi wasn’t too keen to be seen hawking apples on the street.

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“I began handing them to a vegetable vendor to sell and we would split the profits,” Akinyemi informed.

This would earn him five Naira an apple.

However, his employment opportunities did not materialise. “As much as I dreaded being mocked as the graduate apple hawker, I had to earn something to bring back home,” he recounted.

He’d sell each apple for 10 Naira and as people grew fascinated by the bright red, odd-shaped, and pear-tasting fruit, orders for seedlings began streaming in. 

Today he sells 50 to 20 eight-month-old Malay apple seedlings every month at 10 dollars each.

Akinyemi also sells fruits for 50 to 40 cents each from 10 trees grown in his backyard every December to January and May when the apple fruits. These are home-delivered to buyers with the surplus seeds used to grow new seedlings.

Malay apples have high levels of vitamins that improve vision and promote healthy hair growth. They are also high in fibre which makes digestion easier. While refreshing, the fruit also has a low sugar content that is just enough for the body.

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They are attacked by a few pests and diseases, which makes the fruit easy to farm organically. 

“Its properties and the fact that it is grown with just manure makes it an ideal fruit for hospitals, and health awareness organisations which we are looking to partner with once we have a steady and defined supply,” Gbenga said.

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