Good piece detailing the likely effects on African banana farmers of an expected trade agreement between the EU and Ecuador, Latin America’s biggest banana exporter, which would cause farmers in places like Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to quickly lose a sizeable chunk of their already meager 4% share of what is now a US $4 billion market.  But could this be a blessing in disguise?

Rather than focus on potential losses in Europe, Africa’s mostly small-scale banana farmers-who produce a third of the world’s bananas and plantains-should look to the untapped potential of local and regional demand for bananas and banana products. Already, more than 90 percent of Africa’s crop is consumed on the continent, where in countries like Uganda it is the main dietary staple. And regional demand, particularly in rapidly growing urban centers, is increasing.

“Instead of depending solely on exports to Europe, African countries have an opportunity to adopt more liberalized policies that could increase cross-border trade between banana producing and consuming countries,” [Thomas DuBois, a researcher at African based IITA] told attendees, who included growers, government officials, trade experts, banana researchers and industry representatives.

“The future of banana in Africa should move towards strengthening local and regional markets and market linkages that can feed the increasing urban populations, as well as taking advantage of value addition through processing for products like banana chips, beer, fried snacks, flour, fibre, and other consumer goods,” said Sidi Sanyang of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa or FARA. “This will not happen without more intensive and deliberate efforts towards developing marketing strategies that will facilitate the consumption of these products.”

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