Farmers adopt tissue culture bananas as county builds factory

Bananas in a farm. Farmers in Taita-Taveta have embraced tissue culture banana varieties to improve yields as they seek to benefit from a Sh116 million processing plant that is under construction in Taveta sub-county. PHOTO | FILE | MATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Through their co-operative society, Taita Taveta Banana Farmers Association (Tataba), residents have been mobilised to grow the crop that does well in the region.
  • Farmers in the region produce at least 35-60 tonnes per acre of the fruits in a year. The crop currently is under 2,080 hectares.
  • Tissue culture varieties take a maximum of 12 months to mature, unlike traditional suckers, which may take up to 18 months and yield less.
  • County executive for Agriculture Davis Mwangoma said the department has already distributed over 5,000 tissue culture seedlings to farmers.

Farmers in Taita-Taveta have embraced tissue culture banana varieties to improve yields as they seek to benefit from a Sh116 million processing plant that is under construction in Taveta sub county.

Over 6,000 farmers have already planted the new varieties. The factory will need over eight tonnes of banana produce daily.

Through their co-operative society, Taita Taveta Banana Farmers Association (Tataba), residents have been mobilised to grow the crop that does well in the region.

Tataba's secretary Steve Melanyi said they are optimistic that the construction of the factory will assure them a permanent market for their produce therefore putting more money in their pockets. He asked farmers to embrace banana farming to enjoy benefits of the plant.

Farmers in the region produce at least 35-60 tonnes per acre of the fruits in a year. The crop currently is under 2,080 hectares.

Melanyi said the co-operative’s work is to ensure there is increased production by encouraging more farmers to join the venture.

He observed that the factory will play an important role in reducing poverty levels, boosting food security and generating employment opportunities to residents.

SPREAD OF DISEASES

"Right now bananas are rotting on our farms. Many farmers have high quality bananas but there is no market," he said.

Tissue culture varieties take a maximum of 12 months to mature, unlike traditional suckers, which may take up to 18 months and yield less. Traditional bananas also contribute to spread of diseases.

County executive for Agriculture Davis Mwangoma said the department has already distributed over 5,000 tissue culture seedlings to farmers.

Mwangoma said through a partnership with European Union, they will distribute a further 60,000 seedlings.

He said the programme has been interrupted by the outbreak of the coronavirus disease but it will resume as soon as the pandemic is contained.

"We are, however, advising farmers to use this period to plant more bananas so that we get enough supply when the factory is completed," he said.

The construction is funded by the EU and the county government. The construction of the factory started in 2019 and was expected to be completed in June. Mwangoma said its completion would, however, be delayed by the outbreak of Covid-19.

“Construction works have been affected as only 15 workers are allowed at the site. For now we cannot say when the project will be completed because works are very slow. I will be able to give a date when things normalise," he said.

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