By Victory Oduneye
Can you cook, fry or roast plantain without tasting it? I bet you are laughing at yourself right now. I know! The sweet taste that accompanies every bite is something irresistible and it makes you look forward to it almost all the time, especially the roasted one, popularly known as ‘Boli’.
Boli, accompanied with roasted groundnut and cold drink is a favorite snack of most Nigerians especially in the south-west, south-south part of the country. Ohoo, you need to have a taste of Boli if you haven’t.
This explains the large number of people especially women, who have taken to the trade. You can’t miss them. They are almost on every street.
Madam Patience Emavwodua is one of these women. She has been in the Boli (roasted plaintain) trade for more than 10 years.
In this interview with TheNewsBeam, the Surulere based merchant opens up on the lucrative business of satisfying Nigerian’s craving for Boli.
Can we meet you ma’am
“My name is Mrs Patience Emavwodua, I’m from Delta State,”
For how long have you been into this business
“I have been in this business for more than 10 years now”.
What made you go into this line of business
“As a trader, I sell fruit, but for more money to come in, I need to add other things to it, so I just decided to go into this roasted plantain business as a business woman.”
Would you say this a lucrative business and why?
“Yes, the business is profitable, because there isn’t any fixed price, so how I buy the plantain will determine how I sell them, and this helps me make profit.”
What challenges do you face or have you faced in the past and please share how you overcame
“I don’t face any challenge or difficulty in this business, as far as I can get the plantain. The only thing I will say about challenge is that it comes with season. And when it’s out of season, I don’t do the plantain business, I move to roasting of corn and roasting of yam. You see why I said it’s not a challenge at all.”
How do you source for your plantain for this business in order to realise more profit.
“I don’t order directly from the farm. All I do is to go straight to the place where they sell plantain in bulk, it’s cheaper there, but there are people who collect money unnecessarily. For example, they collect “ground money”, that is money for putting your load on the floor and other unnecessary money like that.”
In the case you don’t sell all the roasted plantain in a day, can you still re-sell the following day and what’s your customers response to this?
“No ooo, I cannot keep roasted plantain till the next day. I pray to God to help me sell everything that day and I calculate how many to roast in order to avoid wastage, and if it’s getting late, I usually sell the plantains at a cheaper price so that I can sell everything.”
What’s the monthly profit margin of this business?
“Hmm, it depends on how much I buy the plantain and how many I am able to sell, but for margin sake, I will say for every N6,000 plantain I buy, I should be able to make like N2,000 profit.”
With impact of COVID on almost everything and knowing fully well that you majorly use your hands to prepare the roasted plantain. How have you been able to adapt?
“With Covid-19 coming around, nothing has changed for me in this business, Africans will still eat what they love, and so the number of people buying roasted plantain didn’t drop.
“And because people know me that I am a neat person so they kind of trust me and still patronize me.
And my customers keep coming because they have known me for a long time coupled with the cleanliness I’m known for.
“However, I follow covid-19 protocol, I wash my hands, I have my nose mask, but I use it when I go out, using it when roasting does not allow me breathe well, so I use it when I go out. Also I don’t allow people to touch the plantain, I will tell them to show me the one they want and I pick it for them.”
How has your customers also been reacting to you touching the plantain with your bare hands?
“Hmm, they don’t talk, because like I said before, they know that I am neat so they don’t talk, but the few that talk, instead of touching the plantain with my hands to pick the ones they want, I use the nylon, wear it like a glove, pick the plantain they want and I give them. You know that customer is always right, so I just have to please them.”
Is there a levy you pay for this location and would you call the levy affordable?
“I don’t pay any levy, I was married into this neighborhood, I have been here for a long time, I gave birth to all my children here, so they don’t give me any levy for staying in front of a gate on the street.
What advice would you give to anyone planning on venturing into this business?
“The business is good. You don’t need much to start, you just need a small bowl and the mesh to put the plantain on while roasting, you can get it from Mallam (Hausas), your coal and your plantain. The more you expand in the business, the more you add more things and get the necessary equipment.
For this business to start you will need like N15,000 to start something solid and to get enough plantain to sell.” Mrs. Patience said.
Plantains are cultivars in the genus Musa whose fruits are generally used in cooking. They may be eaten ripe or unripe and are generally starchy. It can also be referred to as green bananas.
Cooked plantains are nutritionally very similar to a potato, calorie-wise, but contain more of certain vitamins and minerals. They’re a rich source of fiber, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins A, C, and B-6, and the minerals magnesium and potassium.
Plantain is loved for its taste, cooking variety, nutrients, it’s ability to quickly and easily prepare, (you don’t need much to prepare a plantain), ease to digest, and it’s affordability.