Meru farmers under Imenti Community Based Organization have won a contract to export banana flour and pancake to Hungary. The CBO sources bananas for processing from 2,000 contracted farmers creating a ready market for them.
“Currently we produce over 12 tonnes every three months and we export the produce at Sh450 per kilo,” said Paul Kiambi, the director of the CBO.
Kenya produces an estimated 1.4m tonnes of bananas annually with Meru (19 per cent) being the leading producer. Other producers are Embu (12 per cent), Taita Taveta (nine per cent), Murang’a (seven per cent), Kisii (six per cent), Tharaka Nithi (six per cent) and Bungoma (five per cent). 86 per cent of the total bananas produced are sold commercially with the rest being consumed directly according to USAID.
The market will come as a relief for farmers as Sh24bn worth of bananas go to waste yearly according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics due to inadequate market.
A high demand for bananas in Europe is driving exports with Hungary among the top 50 export destinations for the produce according to www.worldstopexports.com. The online export and import information site revealed that Hungary imported $53.9m worth of bananas in 2018 and was ranked at number 38 worldwide.
According to the site, global purchases of imported bananas totaled $15.6bn in 2018. In this, the value of bananas imports for all importing countries rose by an average of 2.5 per cent since 2014 when international purchases of bananas were valued at $15.2bn. However, from 2017 to 2018, imported bananas depreciated by negative two per cent.
In this, European nations consumed the highest dollar worth of imported bananas during 2018 with purchases valued at $8.8bn or 56.3 per cent of the global total. In second place were North American importers at 20.8 per cent while 19.1 per cent of worldwide bananas imports were delivered to Asian nations.
Aberdare Technology staff Naomi Wahu stands beside the seedlings firm’s giant banana of more than 110kg in ThikaICOBO millers’ plant was started in 2004 and besides making banana flour; they also produce animal feeds from the banana peelings and organic fertilizer from the stem.
Farmers in the region produce different types of bananas such William Hybrid, Gross Mitchel (Kampala), Fhia 17, Giant Carendash, Uganda Green (Kiganda) and plantains that are commonly known as Gichagara, among others.
Besides the new Hungarian market, Kenyan farmers as well as horticulture exporters dealing in green bananas found market for selling their products in South Korea, following clearance from the country’s Animal and Quarantine Agency.
The East Asian country is largely an importer of foods in order to meet her consumption needs. South Korea imports 70 per cent of its food and in 2017, bananas were the most imported product in the country recording 834,000 tons, worth $1.24bn, according to statistics released in September this year by the South Korea Customs Service.
The largest fruit exporter to South Korea, accounting for 38.3 per cent of the total fruit imports was the United States of America. It was followed by the Philippines with 28.6 per cent, of fruits exports, Chile accounted for 11.6 per cent and New Zealand with 5.1 per cent.