Banana production up but little forex generated

Mutema banana production
Nqobile Bhebhe,Bulawayo

At least 45 775 tonnes of banana’s were produced in Zimbabwe in 2017 up from 16 000 tonnes in 2015 but insignificant foreign currency inflows are generated  owing to limited export markets.

Industry players say about 2 000 tonnes which translate to five percent of nation production is exported mainly to South Africa and Zambia. The balance is consumed locally.

Of the total produced,  81 percent is from one region alone, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) said.

The sector  needs to aggressively tap into other foreign markets to generate foreign currency.

CZI said Manicaland province produced 81 percent (396 975 tonnes) of the total output.

Other regions chipped in with 29 percent which is about 8 800 tonnes.

“The country produced a total of 45 775 tonnes of bananas. These are the latest figures for the year ending 2017.”  CZI national vice president, Richard Chiwandire said as quoted by local media outlets.

“Of this 39 percent (14 472 tonnes) was supplied by Matanuska (Holdings)” Chiwandire said.

Matanuska is the country’s top banana producer with an output of 9,000 tonnes while the remaining 7,000 tonnes comes from small-scale farmers.

These statistics indicate that small-scale farmers also play a central role in the sector as they can surpass Matanuska’s production levels if supported.

Chiwandire, who is also the finance director of Matanusk is on record saying that lack of export markets is proving to be a major challenge.

He says the company’s biggest export market – South Africa –was no longer as profitable as it had been.

Zambian market was too small as the firm only export two truck-loads per week against SA’s 5 000 tonnes per annum.

“The company also supplied the five percent destined for the export market. In fact, Matanuska is the only company that is producing export quality bananas in the country,” the CZI added.

However, Chiwandire said the country is a long way off from developing banana value added products that will compete favourably on the export market.

“Our experience with this is that given our small local market, it is going to take time to develop banana value added products that will compete favourably on the export market,” said Chiwandire.

A banana plant takes about nine months to mature and produce bananas.

While banana production has received minimal support from government as compared to that given to tobacco, maize and wheat, research indicates that bananas have enormous potential to contribute millions to the economy, particularly in the light of significant interest from a giant European company wanting to import bananas from Zimbabwe.

Findings from several surveys indicate that vast banana fields have not been fully utilised.

Measures are underway to scale up production. Zimbabwe has over 3,255 hectares of land in the eastern border region alone that is suitable for banana production.

The available hectarage has the potential to produce over 32,550 tonnes of bananas using the standard 10 tonnes per hectare ratio.

Currently approximately 1,600 hectares are under banana production while 1,655 hectares are under-utilised.