The country has no strategic plan or priority for the cultivation of plantain and its value chain, although its production is viable for the country to consider both for local consumption and for export.
The Root and Tuber Liaison Officer at the Directorate of Crop Services, Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), George Prah, told B&FT that a number of policy interventions are required, targeted at all the actors in the crop’s value chain, to help boost cultivation.
The interventions, Mr. Prah said, must look at investment, a strategy to strengthen production techniques, research and extension, as well as marketing and processing of the crop for profitability among all stakeholders in the value-chain.
Plantain, he said, “has become a seasonal crop and that is also affecting the country’s production volumes. That is also a contributory factor to the reason why we would have to import plantain into the country to shore-up our local supply,” he said.
Unfavorable weather conditions over the last few years, he said, has been partly responsible for the dwindling output.
“From last year the production trends have been slow, with the price of the crop being on the high side. This could be attributed to unfavorable seasons, through last year till now. So there’s been fluctuations in prices till now. Plantain has been very expensive since last year till now. But this year it’s been quite okay.
If you ask the average person on the streets they will tell you that the prices of plantain are high as compared to about two years ago,” he said.
He added: “When farmers realise that the weather condition is going to be unfavorable they wouldn’t go into full production during that year.”
Proposing plans to promote the crop and its value chain, Mr. Prah urged stakeholders to strengthen the local actors along the value chain to ensure that farmers, processors, marketers and buyers are able to coordinate and network adequately to improve production volumes.
Government, he said, needs to develop structures and earmark investment into the cultivation of the crop to improve rural smallholder farmers’ livelihoods.
“There is a lot of potential in the cultivation of the crop,” he said.
Replicating cassava stakeholder platform
Mr. Prah suggested that government should replicate in the plantain sector the Ghana Industrial Cassava Stakeholder platform which seeks to provide a blue print for production.
As part of the cassava stakeholder platform, a policy is in the works to promote the use of high quality cassava flour as composite flour for the bread and confectionary industries.
Government has put in place the necessary strategy to mechanise some of the processes of cassava production to reduce the drudgery of cassava farming and create value for the cassava farmers.
Replicating the cassava strategy, he said, could help grow plantain’s value chain.
Comparing the two crops, he explained that both take between 9-12 months to mature, but observing that, the country produced approximately 17million metric tonnes of cassava whiles plantain production over the years has been hovering around 3,675,000 metric tonnes.
Health benefits of plantains
Plantain relatively has more calories weight for weight while 100g plantain holds about 122 calories. Indeed, the crop is very reliable sources of starch and energy; ensuring food security for millions of inhabitants worldwide.
It contains 2.3 g of dietary fiber per 100 g (6% of DRA per 100 g). Adequate amount of dietary-fiber in the food helps normal bowel movements, thereby reducing constipation problems.
Plantain also provides adequate levels of minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. Magnesium is essential for bone strengthening and has a cardiac-protective role as well.
Currently, out of the 10 regions in the country, six are suitable for the cultivation of plantain, namely the Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Western, Central, Volta and Eastern regions.
Years Production figures Area cultivated
2010 3,538,000 metric tonnes 328,000 hectare
2011 3,619,000 metric tonnes 336,000 hectare
2012 3,556,000 metric tonnes 337,000 hectare
2013 3,675,000 metric tonnes 340,000 hectare
2014 3,785,891 metric tonnes 334,294 hectare