By CrossRiverWatch Admin
Banana is an edible fruit produced by large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa. The fruit is variable in size, color, and firmness, but is usually elongated and curved, with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a rind, which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe according to Wikipedia.
Banana is one of the most produced and commercialized fruits in the world. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the area harvested in 2012 was approximately five million hectares, and production was roughly 102 million tons.
Banana as a fruit is very healthy and is rich in vitamin C, B6, minerals and dietary fibre that boost the immune system, help with fertility, and is delicious too. Banana is thus highly craved because of its health benefits and taste.
Bananas are grown in nearly 130 countries. Uganda is the largest producer of banana and plantain in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
Nigeria is thus among the largest banana producing countries in African providing about 2.73 million tons of banana per year. Also it is the largest banana producing country in West Africa.
It is widely produced in the South and Central regions of Nigeria such as; Oyo, Edo, Ondo, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Ogun States, Cross River, Ebonyi, Abia, Ekiti, Imo, Plateau, Osun, Kogi, Anambra and Enugu.
Bananas are mostly cultivated in all tropical regions because it is a tropical plant and grow well under warm conditions. It is eaten as a fruit and can also be processed into banana starch, flour, and chips.
Cultivation of banana needs moist soil which is however not waterlogged and it takes about 9 to 12 months from the planting period to be mature for harvest, and it grows in bunch.
In Cross River State, banana is grown in large quantities in various Local Government Areas including Akpabuyo, Odukpani, Akamkpa, Biase, Yakurr, Obubra, Ikom, Boki, Ogoja and many others.
The Professor Ben Ayade led Administration in the state has birthed a vision to invest in the expansion of production of banana in the state as a means to economic diversification and expansion of the agriculture value chain.
The banana that the state is investing in is high yielding, disease resistant and also resistant to bacteria, viruses, nematode and fungi affecting banana and plantain plantations in the region.
The banana plantation covers a total of about 6,000 hectares and will be expanded to over 10,000 hectares over time. The farm will also employ over 6,000 people in the first instance.
The investment in banana production will thus not only create jobs but earn foreign exchange, contribute to economic development of the state and ensure food security in the state and beyond.
The banana plantation is developed with automated irrigation and is the first in Africa. The premier plantation is located in Odukpani and is to be expanded to Boki Local Government Area in due course.
In the short term, the harvest from the plantation is expected to help meet the growing demand for the product in Nigeria and the neighboring countries.
In the medium to long term, the products will provide cargo for the post Panama vessels that would be expected at the Deep Sea Port on return voyage to Europe.
It makes a business case thus for the development of the Bakassi Deep Sea Port, given that over 400 containers of banana is projected to be harvested weekly when the plantation attains full capacity.
In the governor’s word, “It is very exciting to see the deep seaport project giving birth to all of these ideas. You cannot build a seaport without planning on the outbound cargo, which is the mistake other ports suffer from.”
Work on the construction of the deep sea port is ongoing with the completion of design, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and commencement of pre-construction and reclamation works at the Bakassi Deep seaport.
The vision of the banana plantation is not only timely but promises also to turn the fortunes of Cross River State around. It is important for citizens to not only support the vision but to also key into it.
Emmanuel Etim is SSA to Governor Ayade of Cross River State.
NOTE:Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Emmanuel Etim, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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