Of the agricultural products, the banana is the fourth most important food product within the least developed countries, being the staple food for some 400 million people (1). Of all the fruits, it holds first place by production volume and is amongst the five most consumed fruits on the planet (2). Some 1,000 varieties of banana trees have been identified in more than 150 countries, producing around 105 to 120 million tonnes (Mt) of fruit a year. There are two main families: the sweet banana or “fruit”, essentially the Cavendish variety, which represents around 60 to 65 Mt (3) , and the cooking banana - particularly the “plantain” in Africa or the “pisang awak” in Asia - consumed more as a vegetable, which represents around 40 to 50 Mt (4) . Both are mainly autoconsumed as only around 14 Mt of fruit bananas, generating $ 7.9 billion (2009), are traded internationally. Exports of the plantain banana are increasing but still remain a little known and limited market compared with the fruit banana.
Table 1. BANANAS: PRODUCTION OF FRUIT BANANAS AND BANANAS PLAINTAIN (Mt)
| |Cavendish |Other types of |Cooking bananas |Bananas | |Region | |dessert banana |(ABB, AAA, EAH) |plantain | | | | | | | |Latin America |17 714 | 5 247 | 849 | 6 742 | |Caribbean | 1 302 | 301 | 597 | 939 | |Mediterranean | 1 713 | 7 | 8 | - | |Eastern and Southern Africa | 1 810 | 737 |13 370 | 1 275 | |Asia | 2 729 | 536 | 1 140 | 9 002 | |Western and Centra Africal |20 625 | 5 440 |10 010 | 834 | |Pacific | 316 | 65 | 543 | 1 | |Total |46 212 |12 520 |26 520 |18795 |
Source : : Lecot 2008 from FAO CCP:BA/TF09/7, Rome 9-11 décember 2009 Almost all southern hemisphere countries produce bananas. Around 90% of production is for autoconsumption, providing 12 to 27% of the necessary daily calorie intake. In Uganda, consumption amounts to 243kg per person, with 100 to 200kg in Rwanda, Cameroon or in Gabon against 10kg on average in the United States or in Europe. Moreover, the world’s top three producers – India (18.5 Mt in 2008), China (7.4 Mt) and Brazil (6.6 Mt) (5) - are not the main exporters, even though Indian exports have increased the last few years, going from 6 300 t exported in 1999 to 45 800 t in 2009, according to the FAO, at an almost steady annual growth rate.
The cultivation of bananas for export is delicate and costly because the plant is very fragile. It can currently be seen that the spread of diseases, such as fusarium and black leaf streak disease (BLSD), is accelerating, linked to globalisation and increased movements of vegetable material. As such, bunchy top disease, previously widespread in Asia and the Pacific, has now reached Africa, much like bacterial wilt previously affecting Latin America(6). This increases the number of treatments needed and therefore the cost, and creates environmental pressures on the export markets. This could eventually lead to a change of production regions in favour of regions that are less susceptible to the development of diseases(7).
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