Banana farmers lose huge local market as disease hits supply
Posted Monday, August 13 2012 at 17:45
According to a pan-African conference in 2008, Uganda produces 10 million tonnes of bananas annually, with an estimated value of $1.7 billion while Kenya produces more than one million tonnes of bananas annually but loses over 40 per cent to pests and poor harvesting.
Banana farmers are losing a huge chunk of their local market due to a fungal disease, which has seen traders turn to Uganda for consistent supplies.
One of the worst affected areas is Kisii, a leading producer of the crop.
Hussein Chidesa, a Ugandan banana farmer, says he earns up to Sh100,000 a week, supplying the produce to traders in Kenya.
“I started as a joke when my sister, who lives in Kenya and sells bananas from Kisii, told me that customers were complaining of low supplies,” Mr Chidesa said. He links his success to the benefits of East African Community (EAC) common market.
The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) deputy centre director in Kisii, Margaret Onyango, said a variety of sweet banana species in the area is hardest hit by Panama, a fungal disease that makes the crop hard and small in size.
The fungus can stay for years in the soil, Dr Onyango told the Business Daily on phone. “It affects farmers a lot in Kisii because most do not carry out a soil survey before planting,” she says.
A variety of bananas that are cooked are resistant to the disease but fall prey to xanthomonus, a bacterial disease that destroys bananas mostly in Western Province and is slowly spreading to parts of Kisii.
“Farmers in Kisii are losing share of the banana market not only because of the fungal disease but also due to a rush to harvest bananas before they fully grow. This affects quality,” said Dr Onyango.
Farmers from Kisii have expressed fear that the two diseases may affect their crops.
Jose Nyamweya, a banana farmer in Kisii, said he finds it difficult to sell his produce because customers do not like their size and taste.
“I think that, aside from the panamas disease that wiped out our sweet bananas from the market, the xanthomonus might be around,” he says.
Mr Nyamweya adds that researchers should step in and help farmers produce quality bananas because Kisii is a leading supplier of the produce.
A pan-African conference on banana held in Mombasa in October 2008 said that Uganda produces 10 million tonnes of banana annually, with an estimated value of $1.7 billion, making it world’s second largest banana producer after India.
Research shows that Kenya produces more than one million tonnes of bananas annually but loses over 40 per cent to pests, poor harvesting techniques or inadequate market.
Banana traders in Kisumu like Stella Moraa and Teresa Masese who buy stock from Uganda are satisfied with the quality of bananas they get.