Rwanda plans to boost production of raw bananas to 1.6 million metric tonnes annually up from 800,000 metric tonnes to reduce the importation of the food crop.
The country produces 1.6 million metric tonnes of different varieties including beer bananas, dessert and raw bananas per year with an annual yield of 10 tonnes per hectare, a target that has since be upped to 17 tonnes.
“We want to increase yield on the same area covered by replacing the low yield plantations with high yield bananas,” Dr. Charles Murekezi, the head of Banana Extension Programme at Rwanda Agricultural Board said in an interview with Business Times during the ongoing regional conference on banana plantations in Kigali.
Farmers are yet to gain new technology on banana management, improved banana crops through short clips of about 3-7 seven minutes explaining the different banana technologies.
More focus will be on dessert bananas that have huge potential for export and agro-processing for wine and dried fruits.
Technical assistant in charge of research and extension, Jean Pierre Busogoro said bananas are part of a food security component. Rwanda has more than 100 varieties of bananas.
“It’s tolerance to drought contributes to food security. Yes it takes long to mature, but once it’s ready, it has regular harvests,” Busogoro emphasised.
Organised by the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Belgian Development Agency (BTC), the conference aims at sharing experiences within the Central and East African region on various aspects of the banana value chain.
Apart from attracting farmers from Belgium, Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania and Uganda, the regional conference on bananas brought together policy makers, researchers, academics, donors, project managers and implementers, and private sector operators.
Prof. R. Swennen from the Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement in Belgium said as the inaugural meeting, it would create a platform to build cooperation in the future.
“We hope the conference will bridge the gap of information transfer on new banana technologies which is still a challenge in the region,” Swannen said.
It is expected that after the conference, participants will establish a strong information database on banana production paving way for future collaboration.