KAMPALA- Uganda needs to cover a deficit of 60 metric tonnes to reach profitable levels of banana production, Daily Monitor has learnt.
During Saturday’s Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic held at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) Kawanda, researchers noted that poor agronomic practices and little value-addition are harming the crop.
Dr Asher Wilson Okurut, an agronomist, said many farmers expect to reap by copying and pasting traditional farming practices from their ancestors.
“We must embrace new trends in order to grow bananas profitably,” Dr Okurut said. He said the winning formula lies within the combination of good agronomic practices that involve plant and soil health, proper selection of seeds, prevention of pests and diseases, as well as proper maintenance of the plantation.
The researchers have recently released NaroBan 5 (M30) to add to the existing varieties. Dr Okurut said NaroBan 5 is resistant to weevils, nematodes, and black Sigatoka. “Earlier, varieties NaroBan 1-4 have similar attributes and they could spur commercial production of bananas,” he said.
However, due to market fluctuations, farmers are considering industrialisation of the banana sector.
The National Banana Research programme at Kawanda has embarked on a journey they call ‘bananas beyond food’.
Dr Priver Namanya, the team leader for National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro)’s Banana Research Programme, said there are more products from the banana plant including leaves, peels, fruit and stems, creating opportunities to earn more income.
The incubation centre at Kawanda is exploring the contribution of banana products as raw material for beverage, textile, and energy, pharmaceutical and environmental conservation .
Dr Namanya views value-addition in terms of processing of fibre into textiles, carpets and paper, green banana resistant starch for management of non-communicable diseases (diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer) and ethanol for industrial use.
The clinic will also address vegetable production techniques with emphasis on seeds, water and market development, among others.
Prof Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, the director of NARL, says small-scale growers should grow more vegetables as it serves as a venue to promote consuming safe produce.
The institute partners with the Korea Programme on International Agriculture (Kopia) to promote consumption and growth of vegetables in Uganda to increase nutritional levels and household incomes.
The televised event was broadcast on NTV between 4:00pm and 6:30pm.
The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic is funded by Stanbic Bank and NSSF in partnership with Naro and NTV.