Monday, 01 August 2016

Ivory Coast banana growers on the comeback trail

Two years after devastating floods, banana planters in Ivory Coast have staged a comeback, eyeing an increase in production and new markets for the popular fruit. The west African country, which has grown bananas for more than 50 years, was annually exporting almost 300,000 tonnes of fruit before disaster struck. In Nieky, a vital banana-growing region, many have scarred memories of the events of June 2014. In fewer than 48 hours, pounding water forced the Agneby river to burst its banks, unleashing a muddy wall of water that damaged 1,300 hectares (3,200 acres) of banana fields. The land is owned by the Banana Cultivation Research and Development Company (SCB), which accounts for 70 percent of national production. "A quarter of our turnover was wiped out," SCB managing director Olivier Biberson told AFP. Thanks to a reconstruction effort that cost six million euros ($6.6 million) -- 80 percent of which came from the EU -- 850 hectares of bananas were replanted over 15 months and dikes were reinforced to prevent the land being swamped again. Today, 1,400 plantation workers are back at work -- jobs that feed 10,000 people.