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Bananas to form new, strong export product for Angola

Boxes of still-green bananas are shifted from a towering stack of crates into a refrigerated shipping container. They are stamped "From Angola, with love". The fruit is shipped to consumers 6,000 kilometres away and they are part of Luanda's drive to diversify its economy and wean itself off its dependence on oil.

Novagrolider, a privately-owned company, produces several dozen tonnes of bananas every week to be shipped to Portugal. The firm, founded 10 years ago with Portuguese investment, has become a poster child for the economic transformation that the Angolan government is seeking.

At Novagrolider's Caxito 600-hectare plantation 60 kilometres northwest of Luanda, the banana plants, protected with blue plastic bags, bend under the weight of their fruit. The bananas are meticulously sorted after being washed and weighed with as many as 4,000 boxes prepared daily. The best-looking fruit is earmarked for dispatch to foreign markets with the rest kept for sale locally.

Supervisor Edwin Andres Luis Campos: "Domestic goods will be sold here in Angolan supermarkets in about four or five days. Exports will be shipped to Europe in refrigerated containers that will arrive in Europe in between 20 and 25 days."

Novagrolider's output has grown exponentially in recent years and its parent company, Grupolider, which has interests in transport and property as well, employs 3,500 people. It grows mangoes, pineapples and watermelons as well as bananas on its four fruit farms in Angola.

After a cautious start, company boss Joao Macedo's appetite and ambition grew rapidly. "Two years ago we started exporting to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo -- but that wasn't viable because of the state of the roads. Despite competition from South America, the quality of our products nonetheless allows us to sell in Portugal and Spain. And that's not all." Macedo hopes to double production to 170,000 tonnes annually and establish a foot-hold in the lucrative South African market.


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