In Celebration of Banana Festival

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

The Musa acuminata Colla, the scientific name popularly known as Banana is commercially and widely cultivated in the tropical and subtropical zones of the world. Fresh, creamy and delicious dessert bananas are one of the cheapest fruits and is readily available all year round. Banana is an energy rich food which comes with a safety envelope.

The 7th International Banana Congress, held in Miami between 26 and 29 September, analyzed the benefits of a genetic improvement procedure that could correct fruit defects and make the plants more resistant to ills. The 7th International Banana Congress was a meeting point for the international community devoted to banana production and served to share information in all areas regarding the current state and future of the banana industry.

The National Biosafety Authority of Kenya has approved field tests for genetically modified bananas, moving the country closer to accept growing and consumption of GMO foods. The authority, in a Gazette Notice dated September 8 says the approval for controlled field tests was granted on November 7 last year, paving the way for the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization to test transgenic bananas.

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The bananas have been modified for purposes of making them resistant to the Xanthomonas Wilt disease – also known as Bacterial Wilt. “That’s an ongoing project at the KALRO Centre in Alupe, Busia,” said Willy Tonui, the NBA Chief Executive. “Bananas are vulnerable to a lot of diseases, especially in Western Kenya and parts of Uganda and these trials have been going on for about six months now, and doing very well,” he said.

According to Dr Tonui, the growing and consumption of GMO food remain a controversial subject globally due to concerns over the possible negative health impact on human beings. Some of the possible health impacts have been documented in the infamous Seralini paper, which claimed that genetically modified food causes cancer. There has been a lot of concern over the possible health effects of GMOs out there. “But I want to assure the public that the process is very rigorous. It takes about 10 years to develop a GMO seed and we as an authority do a lot of checks to ensure public safety, so there is no need to doubt a process that has been fully vetted and thoroughly monitored,” mentioned Dr Tonui.

Recently  September 21st was celebrated around the world as Banana Festival Day. "And there’s much to celebrate about this simple tropical fruit we all know and love. Bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world. A recent study was conducted in the schools of Guatemala where One Banana has their Nutritious School Snacks Program: One Banana a Day Makes a Difference. The program aims to help improve the nutrition and food security of children as part of an in-­school education program. The program consists of the donation of bananas to schools near our plantations, in the departments of Escuintla, Quetzaltenango, Retalhuleu and San Marcos, in Guatemala, as a nutritional supplement to their school snack. This added nutrition has made a difference in the children, as 99 per cent of the children were in the normal growth range for their age after participating in the program.  

Bananas also have other health benefits – they can reduce blood pressure and a study conducted by the Imperial College of London found that children who ate just one banana per day had a 34% less chance of developing asthma. The fibre, potassium, vitamin C and B6 content in bananas all support heart health. Bananas also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that studies suggest plays a role in preserving memory, which may explain why the kids’ school performance improved while eating a banana a day.

The World Banana Forum (WBF) has announced that it's Third Global Conference will take place between 7 and 10 November 2017 in Geneva at CICG (Geneva International Conference Centre). The conference, which is now open for registration, will benefit everyone who has an interest in the banana sector - from the producer and consumer organizations to governments, retailers, traders, NGOs, development agencies and research institutions. The themes for discussion include environmental impacts of the industry, adapting to climate change, sustainable production systems, distribution of value in the supply chain, labour rights, decent work and gender equity. 

Some 250 participants are expected to attend, in particular, representatives from the various organizations that are a member of the WBF such as banana producing and trading companies, producer organizations, civil society organizations, worker unions, research institutes and government agencies.  According to Pascal Liu, the Coordinator of the WBF “The banana industry is excited about this event,”  He further added that Working together to promote sustainable banana value chains has never been so vital. The conference is an opportunity to strengthen the collaboration between stakeholders of the industry and to translate ideas into actions.

The conference aims to strengthen the collaboration among the stakeholders of the banana sector in order to make the value chain more sustainable. It will focus on global collaboration, business and technical issues. It will bring together experts and share the latest innovations on sustainable practices in banana production and trade.

The government of India has updated the protocol for the export of bananas. In order to define this protocol, companies like Deccanfield Agro have been doing trials with small volumes of bananas. “We’ve exported two sample containers from southern ports in India. In order to perform a proper trial, we’ll need to send a total of three or four containers,” says Prashanth Gowda of Deccanfield.

The protocol is primarily aimed at ocean freight, which is a type of logistics that invariably has to deal with the fact that bananas are highly perishable. By experimenting with these shipments, both the companies and the Indian government try to find ways to increase shelf life. However, it is still unclear how to export companies will react to the new protocol. “It’s still too early to tell. We’re still waiting on reactions. The banana varieties that Deccanfield is working with are the Cavendish and the smaller Yelakki. Most of the export goes to Europe and the Middle East. We’re having a very good production this year. Prices are good on the domestic market due to religious festivals. The prices have also increased due to the smaller production volumes, which were caused by the drought. In one and a half months, prices should drop. We’ve seen more rainfall, which could lead to increased production.” Mentioned Prashant. Though some parts of India were hit hard by the extreme monsoon season, this has had no effect on the Indian banana sector. Prashant also added“We’re currently working on a program that combines farmers with private companies. For one such company, about 2.500 ha of the acreage has been planted in the region of Bangalore. As soon as this new acreage goes into production, volumes should increase. We’ve also been helped a lot by government support in the form of subsidies. About 40% of all production costs are financially backed by the Indian authorities.” 

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