Sweet potato is an important staple food crop in Africa and particularly in Nigeria. The cultivation of sweet potato in Nigeria is concentrated in the northern semi-arid agroecological zones.
Overview of Sweet Potato Production in Nigeria
Sweet potato is an important staple food crop in Africa and particularly in Nigeria, which is the third largest sweet potato producer after China and Uganda in terms of quantity. The cultivation of sweet potato in Nigeria is concentrated in the northern semi-arid agroecological zones. Irrigation makes year-round cultivation possible, farmers grow blander, less sweet and more dry-textured varieties -similar to yams- that are highly preferred in major urban markets. In the south, the high sweetness level of sweet potato remains the greatest barrier to its uptake, although most of the country's population is concentrated here.
One point to be noted is that while sweet potatoes are considered a cash crop in certain parts of Nigeria, however, in most areas, they are still considered a minor crop. 91% of sweet potato farmers practice a mixed cropping system with sweet potatoes as the secondary or minor crop. Cassava and sweet potatoes are often grown on the same farm or same region.
Sweet Potato Snacks
In Nigeria, sweet potatoes present various industrial applications. Snacks of sweet potatoes are one of those that are potentially highly profitable. Fried sweet potato snacks are highly demand by women and school children. They enjoy growing popularity particularly in urban areas, because they are very filling and relatively cheaper than yam and potato fries (chips). For rural women, sweet potato snacks act as a viable option for income generation, as sweet potato are grown predominantly by women farmers, and with the rural-urban migration of men, their participation is increasing. There is growing interest in serving sweet potato products in fast food restaurants.
The Nutritional Value of Sweet Potato Chips
Vitamin A deficiency is a particular problem for children under five and for pregnant and lactating women. It can result in blindness for pregnant women and children and even death. Infants, young children and adults are usually encouraged to consume more orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, as they contains Vitamin A with higher beta-carotene content, when compared with the commonly cultivated white-fleshed varieties. The chips produced from the orange fleshed sweet potato can be considered as functional food, alleviating vitamin A deficiency in Nigerian communities where the syndrome is endemic. Apart from Vitamin A, sweet potato also contains adequate amount of calories in form of Vitamins B and C as well as useful amount of other micronutrients. Besides, the skin of sweet potato is edible and has high nutritional value.
A set of small-scale sweet potato chips production equipments are suggested with the features of low investment. Another characteristics is that they are easy to operate, no need to worry about the operative skills. Besides, working video is ready for reference. This production line can wash and peel the sweet potatoes automatically, slice them into adjustable thickness, blanch the slices to stop the enzyme activity, dewater to reduce the time of frying and then fry by electricity or by coal, deoil to reduce the extra oil on the surface, flavor evenly and at last seal the sweet potato chips in a nitrogen bag. The same equipments can also be adjusted for making potato chips, cassava chips and plantain chips, which also have rich raw material sources in Nigeria. Adding a instant freezer you can make frozen chips and fries.