By Penjani Nzima
MOST farmers regardless of their size are well into the cultivation of maize, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots to mention but just a few crops.
The government and different other stakeholders in the agriculture sector have time and again emphasized on the need for the farmers to diversify and try out other cash crops that may bring about tangible results in their agricultural business.
Andone of the cash crops that farmers have not really tried out is bananas and yet this crop has an already existing market both locally and beyond.
According to Boyd Njebe the proprietor of NJEBE AGRO CONSULTANCY discloses in an exclusive telephone interview that banana production is a very lucrative business whose potential has not been exploited to the fullest in this country.
Mr. Njebe is an expert in banana production with massive years of experience of more than a decade.
He said bananas are the cheapest crop to grow because they don’t require an annual application of inputs such as fertilizer and even the issues of ploughing the land on a yearly basis is not there.
He indicated to this reporter during the interview that setting up a Banana plantation does not involve much but only need that one must have enough capital for the suckers.
Mr. Njebe said the good suckers can fetch about K 35 a plant from a reputable local supplier and a hectare can take up to about 2000 suckers.
He said the other things that are very vital in banana production are a continuous supply of water as well as good management.
· Bananas has a potential yield of60 to 80 tonnes per hectare depending on the variety.
· It has readily available marketslocally e.g. in the supermarkets, in the markets like Soweto, Kasumbalesa etc.
· Prevailing prices currently isbetween K 4000 to over K 5000 per ton.
· It's perennial crop likely tosurvive during partial dry spell seasons provided irrigation is available.
· Plant population of between 1600to over 2000 per hectare.
· It can easily be grown both organically and inorganically.
· It takes about 7 to 10 months to start flowering and about 1 year to start harvesting under good management.
MAJOR CHALLENGES IN BANANA GROWING
Just like any other crop, bananas have their own challenges, they may get destroyed by the cold during winter season. But the good news is that there is a short-,medium- and long-term preventive measures that does work very well.
The other major challenge that banana farmers may encounter is the disease called Banana Bunch Top Virus (BBTV).
Mr. Njebe said this disease has no cure and the only control is on preventive measures, that have worked very well under my management.
“We have the oldest banana crop if not the oldest crop in Zambia that has lasted over 14 years and we are still harvesting from them,” he disclosed.
Forfurther information contact Boyd Njebe on 0960494593 or WhatsApp on 0976605733.