Banana is the main staple food and cash crop for more than 25 million smallholder farmers, with an annual production worth US$ 1.5 billion, based on the five-year average price for banana of Shs 700 per kilogram (FEWS, 2021) and the average annual production of 7.6 million tonnes (UBOS 2018 - 2021). This is a significant contribution to Uganda’s agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$ 8.9 Billion (World Bank 2020). Most of these bananas were consumed internally both in rural and urban areas.

Only a small proportion of U$ 3.5 million of banana was exported (UBOS 2021), yet the banana crop has great unexploited industrial potential to develop high value products for both the domestic and export markets.

However, most farmers in Uganda still produce at lower levels of less than 30% of the potential levels of production. For example, an acre of bananas which should produce about 75 bunches per month, now produces 25 bunches. This means that the farmer loses money on 3 acres to produce bananas he/she would have produced on one acre because of underutilised land, unnecessary labour costs and time wasted.

Low levels of productivity are majorly as a result of increasing pest and disease pressure, reducing soil fertility and water stress conditions, low yielding varieties and changing weather patterns. The common pests are weevils and nematodes, more prevalent in the low altitude areas of Buganda, Bunyoro, Busoga and northern Uganda. The major diseases are black Sigatoka, banana bacterial wilt and fusarium wilt. Most recently, banana rust thrips have also emerged as a serious problem. These together cause serious yield losses and also reduce plantation life from about 50-100 years to less than 5 – 30 years.

Most of the pests and diseases are managed by deployment of improved banana varieties which have been released and available in the banana growing communities. Scientists of the National Banana Research Program together with the partners have also generated information for effective cultural control of some pests and diseases to back up resistant banana deployment. Recommendations have also been made on improved soil nutrition and water management practices.

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