Shock as imported bananas flood Abuja markets
Imported bananas, with low prices, have flooded Abuja markets, raising concerns about the country’s food security, the livelihoods of banana farmers and traders as well as the health of consumers.
An investigation by News Agency of Nigeria at various markets and supermarkets in Utako and Maitama districts of Abuja on Tuesday revealed that the foreign bananas were conspicuously displayed on several shelves.
Roadside fruits hawkers also gave more priority to displaying the foreign bananas than the local variety.
The sellers and buyers, who spoke to NAN, said that the imported bananas had received high patronage due to its fresh appearance, smooth skin, size, taste and lower prices.
The banana imports notwithstanding, the Food and Agriculture Organisation identifies Nigeria as one of the largest banana and plantain producing countries in Africa.
Recent statistics indicate that Nigeria produces about 2.74 million tonnes of banana annually, making the crop one of the important staple crops in the country.
However, some of the sellers and consumers of the imported variety of banana said that it was receiving high patronage because of its fresh look, packaging, size and taste.
NAN observed that the imported bananas are usually displayed for sale in a bunch of five fingers, 10 fingers and 15 fingers, depending on the species.
A consumer, Malam Aminu Danlami, said that the imported bananas were cheaper than the local species, adding that it also had a longer shelf-life when compared to the local banana.
He also said that the unique taste of the imported banana had made it more appealing to most banana consumers.
However, Mrs Rachael Oke, another consumer, bemoaned the flooding of FCT markets with imported, low-priced fruits whose sources could not be easily ascertained.
She said that the imported fruits included apples, small grapes, plums and all kinds of exotic fruits.
But Oke particularly frowned at banana importation, insisting that banana was cultivated in great quantities in many states across the country.
She emphasised that if the trend was not reversed, it could force thousands of banana farmers and traders out of business while exerting more pressure on the shaky food security of the country.
One of the major banana importers at Utako market, who preferred anonymity, said that he used to import banana and other fruits from Togo, Cameroun and, at times, Benin Republic depending on the security situation and the prevailing currency exchange rates at different points in time.
He said that his banana importation business was very lucrative because he had many retail outlets in Abuja, Lagos, Rivers, Kano and Kogi states, while the patronage for imported banana was constantly increasing when contrasted with that of the local variety.
He also added that the imported banana could retain its freshness for three weeks without losing its taste or look.
“It is easier for me to import banana than to import rice or vegetable oil because Customs (Nigeria Customs Service) will not disturb me.
“At times, I buy grains from Dawanu market in Kano and ferry them to Niger or Benin Republic or buy things from Taraba and take them to Cameroun. In those countries, I buy fruits and eggs for sale in my country,” he said
The man also noted that the imported banana could be preserved for a long time, unlike the home-grown species, adding that the same situation applied to other imported fruits like berries, apples and tangerines. Punch