GODWIN AJOM, Calabar
Banana is a tropical cash crop. According to research, it requires alluvial and volcanic soils to grow. Bananas have green leaves that turn brown when dried. The fruit is sweet, green in colour but yellowish when ripened and is eaten raw when ripened. All Nigerian tribes eat banana.
In central Cross River, some grind and make bananas into a potage similar to the popular Efik delicacy called ekpang nkukwo. Bananas possess huge nutritional values which makes them one of the best fruits and one of the most consumed fruits. They can be eaten with fried groundnut. Some also combine banana with bread.
In Cross River state, banana is grown and produced in very large quantities. Frankly, Cross River can and do export banana. In Etung, Ikom, Obubra and Boki, bananas are produced in very large quantities and taken outside the state for commercial purposes.
Mrs Margarete Augustine deals on banana says she buys in large quantities from the farmers in Ikom, and Etung and transports to Aba in Abia state for commercial purposes.
“I have been in this business for more than 13 years now. I have built a very large house in my community and my children are all in school, courtesy of this business. I buy banana from the farmers in trucks, I load them on 911 vehicles to Aba for marketing.
“The business is paying well because once you successfully transport your bananas to Aba, chances of selling well are very high. Like me, I already have customers there, so it is easier for me. The challenges we have sometimes is that our vehicles will spoil on the road and before we get to the market, the fruits are already getting ripe, which you know it will affect us because bananas are perishable. But it is a good business. Just that these days, we pay too much on transportation,” she said.
In Ikom for instance, farmers sell a bunch of banana at the rate of N500, N2,000, N1,000 and N1,500 depending on the size of the bunches. Due to poor road network, farmers transport a motorcycle load of bananas which is usually 10 to 12 bunches through a distance of about 10 to 14 kilometres on a very rough track farm roads at the cost of between N1,500 and N2,000 per trip. Most farmers in the area, complain angrily of low pricing and minimal returns considering the amount of labour involved in the production of the crop.
“My name is Ndoma, I have a farm here, actually the crops are doing well because we are working hard. I can boldly tell you that Ikom farmers are hard working. Well, the challenges we are having is that after suffering to plant, harvest and transport these bananas from the farms to here, we end up selling them at a very cheap rate and it’s not helping the business at all. Imagine a big bunch of banana like this, you will sell it at N500, if you are lucky, its N800 or N1,000, before you sell a bunch at N2,000, it should be very big, so the profit is too low. We pay for labour, transport, clearing of grasses in the farm, so at least we should earn something better,” he complained.
An interaction with Mr. Andrew Essien, a native of Bakassi, reveals that bananas are grown in the area too, he said the only challenge is that they lack a good market to sell the fruits after harvest. Meanwhile, in Calabar South, almost everyone five compounds have at least one banana plant. Although not cultivated in very large farms as obtainable in Cross River central, the soil in Calabar South is suitable for the cultivation of banana. A similar case is in Bekwara, Obudu some parts of Yala, Obanlik, Abi and Ogoja.
In Biase, Banana is grown very well too. Odukpani, Akpabuyo and Akamkpa are not left out of the equation. It is only Calabar municipality where development appear to have eaten off the farming environment that you can hardly find a banana plant. These facts means that banana can grow anywhere in Cross River state.
At this time when the Ayade’s government is wailing and weeping over low allocation and in an era where internally generated revenue (IGR) is a huge challenge, the production and exporting of banana can make up for a huge IGR for the state. Harvesting bananas from across at least 15 local government areas of the state for export can sum up a great deal of employment opportunities, and revenue, as well as foreign reserves for the state and it’s citizenry just like India, China, Indonesia and a host of others. The Cross River State government can turn banana production into a very corporate, lucrative and productive business, if the political will is there.
Although the current Ayade administration had proposed the production of banana in the state, the site that was earmarked for that project is still lying fallow and empty at Odukpani local government area. Has it has become a lost vision?