Experts say Tanzania can do better in banana production

Tanzania and Uganda, the two top banana-producing nations in Africa, have a combined annual output of 3.5 million tons, valued at $4.3 billion. The two East African neighbours are said to be producing over half of all bananas grown on the continent. However, they have been challenged to invest more in the crop for better yields and income.

Briefing journalists on the side-lines of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)'s annual planning meeting, Dr. Cyprian Ebong, executive secretary of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa last Wednesday emphasized the importance of improving the banana crop in the two East African nations.

Tanzania currently boasts some 3.7 million banana farmers who, like their counterparts in Uganda, depend on it as a staple food and major source of income. But experts say the crop is currently achieving only 9 percent of its potential yield due to pests and diseases, posing a serious threat to the future sustainability of banana production in the region.

Xinhuanet.com describes how bananas are considered the world's fourth most important food crop and are of critical importance to the food security and income generation of more than 70 million Africans. They are, however, said to be among the most difficult crops to successfully cultivate due to the sterile nature of the crop, low seed set, and low germination rates of the seeds.

IITA is coordinating a five-year, multi-partnership project titled "Improvement of Banana Production for Smallholder Farmers in the Great Lakes Region of Africa." The project aims to expand existing cooking banana production trends in Tanzania and Uganda by developing improved hybrid seeds which are resistant to diseases (black Sigatoka and Fusarium wilt) and pests (weevils and nematodes).

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