Ngoma: Banana growers decry lack of market access

Banana growers in Mutenderi Sector in Ngoma District have claimed that they do not have markets for their produce

The 146 farmers who are grouped in Banana Farmers’ Cooperative in Mutenderi (KOABAMU) say that the existing four banana processing plants in the district are reluctant to buy their produce.

“Our main problem is that we have banana processing plants, but which are not buying our produce,” Faustin Ntakarutimana, a member of the cooperative said. “Our bananas are rotting in the farm and being eaten by birds.”

Ntakarutimana recalls last year when the Government closed local banana beer and wine factories due to poor standards.

However, some of them were reopened, giving hope to farmers.

“However, the factories do not accept our produce; and we wonder, we have bananas here and there are the reopened factories, then what are their raw materials?” he stated.

Ntakarutimana and his colleagues suspect that the banana processing plants use more sugar as their main raw material as opposed to using bananas.

He said he has a pile of bananas at his home while others rot in the plantations.  

Ntakarutimana disclosed that his monthly income dropped to less that the Rwf70,000 he used to earn five years ago.

“We had high expectations in the new banana variety, and we still do. If we get access to markets, it will be a lucrative variety,” he said.

Didace Manirareba, the President of KOABAMU, said their plantations can produce around 60 tonnes of bananas every month and yet the processing plants cannot buy more than 20 tonnes.

“Five years ago we bought one seedling of Fia variety at Rwf1,000. Back then, the price of Fia banana was 150 per kilo or Rwf6,000 per a bunch of bananas, this encouraged many people to start growing it. But today, they are increasingly getting discouraged,” Manirareba announced.

Alfred Munyaneza, the Manager another cooperative called COPROVIBA, a Mutenderi-based banana beer factory, said: “Our brewery has the capacity it cannot exceed.”

COPROVIBA uses between 12 and 18 tonnes of bananas per month, and its market are mainly in Ngoma, cities of Kigali, Muhanga and Rulindo.

“There are people who will tell you that they produce banana beer, but you cannot establish the source of their raw materials. Government should inspect whether the plants really use bananas.”

What Government says

Jean Marie Vianney Rwiririza, Ngoma District Vice-Mayor in charge of Economic Development, said they were scrutinising the factories.

“We will establish if it is either because the factories use sugar as their raw material instead of ripe bananas, or another problem,” he stated. “The fact that bananas are rotting in the farm is something we are still seeking to know much about, because it does not make sense at all.”

The Governor of the Eastern Province, Fred Mufulukye, promised to link the farmers with a factory in neighbouring Kayonza District.

“There is also another plant that is still under construction in Rwamagana District, which will be a big buyer of the bananas. But it is not operational yet,” he added.

He says that the district authorities will be encouraged to facilitate farmers to establish their own factory.

Ngoma 23,000 hectares of banana plantations, making it one the districts with the biggest banana plantations in the country.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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