A Nyamira County youth group using a banana ripening polythene chamber has cut by half the number of days of turning the fruits to yellow for the market besides doubling revenue earned per harvest.
Traditional ripening using banana and other ethylene emitting leaves takes between 10 and 14 days.
But Rigesa Youth Group Chairman Vincent Oyaro said the 8,000 banana fingers capacity chamber reduces the days. By the fourth day the bananas are ready for marketing.
“The transparent chamber helps in accumulating the little gas produced by the harvested. Rising levels of ethylene gas start turning the cover of the bananas yellow by the end of the first day. By the second day, yellowing bananas emit more of the gas, which quickens the process into the flesh,” Oyaro said.
Ripe banana markets
The group supplies bananas to business people in Kisumu, Kisii, Kebirigo, Kericho among other markets in the Nyanza and Rift Valley regions. They ripen upon orders from the traders.
In hastening the process in the three compartments, about 10 avocados and passion fruits are put in the lowest chamber.
Ethylene gas is a compound of carbon and hydrogen that causes fruits to turn yellow.
“Avocados and passion fruits are ‘catalysts’ in this process because they release a lot of ethylene. Passion fruits start ripening while at the shamba. Bringing them to the chamber means ready release of good quantity of the gas,” the chairman said during the Kisii Agricultural Society of Kenya Show 2016.
Setting the fingers
Among the Abagusii, a heavy herbaceous plant called Omoroka, is used to cover the fruits because it produces the same gas in large quantities when in a tightly tied sack or compartment.
The about three-by-four-by-eight feet holding structure has three compartments. The bananas are arranged in three or four-finger bunches facing down.
They should, however, be aired for about a day before putting them in the camber to avoid bursting after ripening.
Ripe profits in ripening
A mature well grown tissue culture banana of about 80 kilogrammes can have 2,000 banana fingers. If sold green for cooking or ripening, it fetches between Sh1,100 and Sh1,300. But allowing it to ripen in the chamber for the three days, its value shoots to above Sh3,000.
The upper bigger fingers fetch Sh20 when sold in threes while the smaller middle ones earn Sh5 each; the smallest fingers are sold at three for Sh10.
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The Nyamusi Sub-county youth group, which is funded by the World Vision-an international non-governmental organisation, is helping more than 50 members who deliver their bananas to a common ripening centre. They source a market together.
At the centre, the groups also bakes the bananas into cakes, chops crisps and other products in their value addition chains.
Danger in chemicals
Reports of urban ripe banana sellers using chemicals to hasten the process have regularly hit the social media. There are fears that the chemical have side effects, with cancer being the most common disease blamed. There are, however, no confirmed cases linking the chemical to any type of cancer. The worry is that the chemicals are not authorised for this use.
Oyaro can be reached on +254710174733