Banana deal promises a bright future for farmers

By Filbert Rweyemamu

Arusha. A Kilimanjaro-based Mackjaro yesterday became the first beneficiary of the new banana trading partnership between farmers and export-oriented buyers.
Kenya-based Twiga Foods, which distributes 100 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables daily to Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu, has already pledged to start purchasing at least eight tonnes of raw bananas through the Kilimanjaro-based company.
This was revealed yesterday by Kevin Remen, responsible for the business environment of the Taha group.
“This is one of the measures taken by the Group to open up export markets for bananas,” he said, noting that Kenya was one of the potential markets for the crop.
He said banana growers in the northern zone regions will benefit from the new market for one of their staple foods as well as cash crops.
The market opening follows a recent banana stakeholder meeting held in Moshi where Agriculture Minister Professor Adolf Mkenda called for deliberate efforts to market the crop locally, regionally and abroad.
The September 25 meeting attracted farmers, producers and other players in the banana value chain as well as leaders from banana producing districts, including the Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions.
The minister said he called the meeting in order to lay the foundation for the best strategies for improving banana production, now considered one of the horticultural crops with high potential.
The meeting also served as a capacity building platform for both producers, buyers, processors and other players in the banana value chain.
Taha Group, an organization promoting the country’s horticulture industry based in Arusha, insists that small farmers are among the targets of the campaign.
Mackjaro’s production manager, Victor Mushi, said his company had brought 143 acres of land to banana cultivation and the company employed 145 workers.
He appreciated the efforts of the Taha group to seek export markets for their crops outside the country, saying this would increase farmers’ incomes.
However, he said, besides the newly found buyers in Kenya, there was a large market for bananas in the Dar es Salaam and Dodoma areas as well as other cities.
Tanzania is one of the main banana producers in Africa, the other being neighboring Uganda.
The two countries consume about 50 percent of the bananas grown on the continent, according to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Bananas have recently become one of the cash crops of the East African Community (EAC bloc, generating $ 4.3 billion per year.
In Tanzania, a total of 760,000 hectares of the crop were cultivated in 2016, during which 3.5 million tonnes were produced.

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