Ivory Coast banana grow­ers bounce back

The Myanmar Times - - Business -

TWO years after dev­as­tat­ing floods, banana planters in Ivory Coast have staged a come­back, eye­ing an in­crease in pro­duc­tion and new mar­kets for the popular fruit.

The west African coun­try, which has grown bananas for more than 50 years, was an­nu­ally ex­port­ing al­most 300,000 tonnes of fruit be­fore dis­as­ter struck.

In Nieky, a vi­tal banana-grow­ing re­gion, many have scarred mem­o­ries of the events of June 2014.

In fewer than 48 hours, pound­ing wa­ter forced the Agneby River to burst its banks, un­leash­ing a muddy wall of wa­ter that dam­aged 1300 hectares (3200 acres) of banana fields.

The land is owned by the Banana Cul­ti­va­tion Re­search and Devel­op­ment Com­pany (SCB), which ac­counts for 70 per­cent of na­tional pro­duc­tion.

“A quar­ter of our turnover was wiped out,” SCB man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Olivier Biber­son told AFP.

Thanks to a re­con­struc­tion ef­fort that cost 6 mil­lion euros ($6.6 mil­lion) – 80 per­cent of which came from the EU – 850 hectares of bananas were re­planted over 15 months and dikes were re­in­forced to pre­vent the land be­ing swamped again.

To­day, 1400 plan­ta­tion work­ers are back at work in jobs that feed 10,000 peo­ple.

“The sit­u­a­tion is un­der con­trol. We have man­aged to re­cover our pro­duc­tion lev­els,” said Kos­som­ina Ou­at­tara, the plan­ta­tion su­per­vi­sor.

Bananas are widely grown in Africa, es­pe­cially va­ri­eties that are used for cook­ing, while Ivory Coast has carved it­self out a niche in the clas­sic yel­low “dessert” banana – and is sec­ond to Cameroon as Africa’s big­gest ex­porter of the fruit.

In 2015, the coun­try ex­ported nearly 300,000 tonnes of bananas, worth $285.7 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try sources, mak­ing it the world’s 12th-largest ex­porter with 2.7pc of global mar­ket share.

Agri­cul­ture in the coun­try of 23 mil­lion ac­counts for a quar­ter of GDP – bananas, along with co­coa and cof­fee, are a vi­tal part of the econ­omy.

Banana planters have launched a re­cov­ery plan with a view to hik­ing pro­duc­tion to 500,000 tonnes by 2020 and are hop­ing to build up a lu­cra­tive sub-re­gional mar­ket in Mali, Burk­ina Faso and Niger.

But a shadow lies over this scheme.

The floods have high­lighted the sec­tor’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to bad weather, prompt­ing some to fear the hand of global warm­ing in driv­ing costly dis­as­ters of this kind.

“The flood­ing was a con­se­quence of cli­mate change,” Mr Ou­at­tara said, ex­plain­ing that the downpour was by far the worst in sev­eral decades. –

Photo: AFP

Work­ers cut bananas from a tree in a plan­ta­tion field near Dabou, around 45 kilo­me­tres (28 miles) from Abid­jan.

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