Agriculture varsity hosts first-ever banana festival in Hyderabad
Hyderabad: The first-ever banana festival at Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam, explored the potential for increasing the fruit’s production and marketing its different by-products locally and internationally. The event was organised by the Agriculture Tourism Development Corporation Pakistan, in collaboration with the varsity.
The director-general of Sindh agriculture research, Dr Noor Muhammad Baloch, speaking at a seminar which was part of the festival, said that scientists and banana growers will have to liaise for enhancing production and introducing new varieties. He said that Sindh contributes to around 90 per cent of the country’s total banana production, placing it at the second position after mangoes.
He said that the research department, along with the varsity, has been working to introduce new banana varieties for cultivation in the province. A laboratory for the fruit’s tissue culture and seeds has recently been established at the university which will provide banana seeds to the farmers, he added.
Banana is a high-delta crop and it is mostly grown in Sindh’s Tando Allahyar, Matiari, Nawabshah and Mirpurkhas districts. Until over a decade ago, Sindh’s coastal districts’ riverine areas were the highest producers of the crop before the bunchy top disease wiped out banana from that belt.
According to Sindh agriculture department, the banana crop, which takes 16 to 18 months to mature, was cultivated on 28,200 hectares in the province in 2017-18. The fruit’s production stood at 109,472 tonnes that year. The Basrai or Bombay variety of the crop is largely grown in the province besides an Australian variety, Williams.
“Introducing new varieties has remained a big challenge. But our scientists have been working over this issue with dedication,” said Baloch. He added that the festival will now be organized annually.
Tariq Tanveer, director of the Agriculture Tourism Development Corporation Pakistan, said that efficient cultivation of banana and preparation of its by-products can multiply earnings of the crop’s farmers. He said that Sindh’s banana is also being exported. “There is a need to establish model banana farms where visitors can also be provided various dishes which are made from banana.”
Agriculture official Abdul Jabbar Memon said that banana’s production has recently increased to 127,000 tonnes. He said that the fruit is attacked by various diseases and the farmers ought to be trained for prevention and cure.
Agha Zafarullah Durrani, former agriculture official and a progressive farmer, stressed the need for cultivation after acclimatisation of new varieties of banana. He asked the scientists to lead the way.
The farmers’ representative, Syed Nadeem Shah, said that the crop price and market played a pivotal part in encouraging a farmer to cultivate a particular crop. He said the crop prices lacked stability and a price hike often met resistance from the buyers and consequently the government. He also drew the government’s attention towards establishing cold storage facilities.
During the festival, various stalls were set up by a number of banana farms. The fruit’s by-products and dishes like fried banana were also put on display.