Cooking banana and plantains are important staple crops in the four of the African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda) prioritised for postharvest research by the United Kingdom Department for International Development. This paper reviews the key postharvest issues suitable for strategic research on these crops in these countries. Throughout the sub-Saharan region, yields of plantain have fallen and yield reductions in East African highland banana production have been noted. These decreasing yields appear to be caused primarily by fungal diseases and reductions in soil fertility. Attempts to introduce germplasm with better disease resistance in certain regions has highlighted the need to ascertain local preferences for cultivars in banana breeding programmes. Simple physical or biochemical tests or even pre-harvest markers are needed for the evaluation of key postharvest qualities of new hybrids. Losses of fruit after harvest are typically less than 10% but the distance between production areas and the major markets is limited by the short storage life of the crop under tropical conditions. There is some evidence that significant volumes of fruit are not harvested in peak production periods but data on such losses are not available. Longer term solutions to these problems may lie in the genetic engineering of the crop, for example, the manipulation of ripening biochemistry. Cooking bananas and plantains are utilised in a wide range of food dishes of varying regional importance. There appears to be a potential market for a wider range of snack products produced from these commodities in the target counties including the production of several popular alcoholic and non-alcoholic banana based beverages in East Africa.
Aked, J., Wainwright, H., Rees, D. and Westby, A. A review of the post-harvest research issues for cooking banana and plantain with specific reference to Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania. Acta Horticulturae (1998) 540: 529-537.