Malawi’s apparently insatiable appetite for imports seems to have literally gone bananas
The country is now importing bananas from neighbouring Tanzania, with agriculture experts admitting that this may be a necessary step because the country’s own bananas have been attacked by the dreaded banana bushy top virus (BBTV).
BBTV is one of the most serious diseases which diminishes banana quality and quantity. The disease first emerged in Nkhata Bay several years ago, but was not successfully contained and it has now spread to many parts of the country.
The importation of Tanzanian bananas is a new talking point for other Malawians who complain that the country is wasting its scarce foreign exchange earnings through the odd importation of locally-available stuff such as tomatoes, oranges, beef, chickens and eggs.
When Business News visited Mchesi, one of the biggest banana markets in Lilongwe last week, there was a truck full of bananas from Tanzania being offloaded.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga confirmed in an interview that the country has lost most of its bananas and that the situation on the ground does not look good.
“As government, we are doing quite a lot but it is true we have lost a lot of bananas. I do not have specific figures as to how many farmers have been affected but I would love if you send a questionnaire,” she said.
At Mchesi Market, Tanzanian businessperson Ali Idi Muhamad, who brought the bananas, said he travels to Malawi three times a month with a truckload of bananas and they sell like hot cakes.
“I have an agent here who sells the bananas on my behalf and one lorry gives me over K2.4 million [$4 218),” he said.
His agent, Henry Nkhoma, said he has been selling bananas for 15 years, but the situation has never been as bad as it is now.