THE government has expressed its desire to increase banana crop production in a bid to meet local demand and supply to external markets. Minister for Agriculture, Prof Adolf Mkenda told a visiting Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water that the crop has been categorized as strategic, because it has the potential to cater for food security and commercial purposes.

“Plans are well underway to unlock the full potential of banana crop in order to meet our domestic consumption and export,” Prof Mkenda told the house committee members on their familiarization tour to horticulture plantations in Kilimanjaro region. Prof Mkenda further said the government has decided to partner with the horticulture industry champion- TAHA and will soon rollout a major drive to spur the mass production of banana crop.

“We have agreed with TAHA to convene a meeting in November this year, where all banana crop stakeholders, crop scientists, researchers, marketing experts and export companies, will deliberate on how to unlock the full potential of the banana crop, to meet domestic consumption and get a lion’s share of African export markets,” the minister further said.

It is understood, Tanzania and Uganda produce over a half of all bananas grown in Africa. On her part, TAHA Group CEO, Dr Jacqueline Mkindi said the planned conference would discuss opportunities and challenges facing the banana industry, and hence, chart out sustainable strategies to unleash its potential to spawn a windfall income for farmers and the nation at large.

Dr Mkindi guaranteed the Members of Parliament that her organisation would throw its expertise, strength and vast experience in fostering a horticulture industry in the country to spur the banana industry.

TAHA is an apex private sector member-based organisation that advocates for growth and competitiveness of the multi-million-dollar horticultural industry in Tanzania Indeed, for 16 years of its existence, TAHA had brought together over 4.5 million both large-scale and smallholders farmers into a single bloc fortified by a common set of business-oriented interests.

With an annual growth rate of between 7-8 per cent and export value of 779 million US dollars (about 1.8tri/-) annually, the horticultural industry has turned to the growth driver of entire Tanzania’s agriculture.

It’s input to overall agrarian exports value has grown by 38 per cent on average and poised to grow by leaps and bounds; thanks to TAHA’s painstaking efforts in partnership with the government and development partners.

“We expect the meeting will come up with a clear strategy that will spearhead a large scale production of banana crops in the country to cater for food security and commercial purposes,” Dr Mkindi told the Bunge Committee.

The Chairperson of Agriculture, Livestock, and Water parliamentary Committee, Dr Christine Ishengoma applauded the planned initiative under the public-private-partnership (PPPs) model.

“We are going to spread a word in our constituencies as part of the campaign to sensitize farmers to embrace banana crop,” Dr Ishengoma said shortly after visiting a modern plantation in Hai District, Kilimanjaro region, where banana and macadamia crops are grown under one roof.

Commenting, the investor- the Macjaro Company Ltd, owning the farm, Mr James Powell informed the parliamentary committee that he plans to make a major banana export forays into the Middle East markets.

“I’m keen to make inroads into the Middle East market, but before that, I need to ensure that out-growers and I, can produce sufficient volume and high quality banana crop for export,” Mr Powell told the committee.

According to research expert covering Angola, Kenya and Tanzania, Ms Julia Faria, the production of banana in Tanzania hit 3,407 metric tonnes in the season 2018/2019. There was minimal growth in comparison to the preceding season, when 3,396 metric tonnes of banana were produced.

Banana is part of the staple diet in Tanzania and one of the ten main food crops in the country. In Tanzania, most of the bananas (over 70 per cent) are grown in the Kagera, Kilimanjaro, and Mbeya regions. Other regions producing a significant amount of bananas are Morogoro, Kigoma, Mara, Arusha, Manyara, Ruvuma, Tanga, and Coast.

The global export value of the banana trade was estimated to be 8.9 billion US dollar before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic; with a retail value standing between 20 billion US dollars and 25 billion US dollars annually.

And at 8.9 billion US dollars, bananas grown for export are only a fraction of the 44.1 billion US dollars in annual banana and plantain production-in fact, bananas are the fourth-most valuable global crop after rice, wheat, and milk.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s data shows that nearly nine-tenths of the world’s bananas are eaten in poor countries, where at least 400 million people rely on them for 15-27 percent of their daily calories.

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