Plantain and banana are important staple crops, supplying up to 25% of the carbohydrates for approximately 70 million people in the humid zone of sub-Saharan Africa. Crops are mostly grown on small-scale farms, in backyards, or on farm plots of less than 0.5 hectares. Plantain and banana are also an important source of revenue for smallholders.
A major problem of plantain and banana is that the fruits are highly perishable. At ambient tropical temperatures, plantain and banana have an average market life of 1-10 days, compared with several weeks for yam, for example.
The difficulties associated with the short storage life of plantain are worsened by the marketing system. The marketing system in Africa usually involves several retailers. Buying and selling takes time and leads to increased crop damage. Transport is often delayed, and can fail altogether, because of poor conditions of vehicles and roads.
The environment within the market is also not suited to long-term storage. A combination of high perishability, high ambient temperatures, slow marketing systems, and poor market conditions leads to losses in fruit quality, and ultimately to postharvest losses.
To reduce or avoid physical or economic losses, researchers look for ways to extend storage life. Storage life depends on
Some of these factors can be controlled or manipulated to extend storage life of the fruit. Another way of extending storage life is by processing; for example, a perishable fruit can be changed into a dry product.
Methods to improve the storage life of a crop must make economic sense. For example, a temperature-controlled marketing system would improve plantain quality and market life, but such a system could not be supported in traditional plantain marketing systems. In African markets, only low-cost schemes are viable.
Improved handling and storage methods can be used on farms, at loading sites, during transport, and at the market. Improved storage maintains fruit quality from farmers' fields to consumers.
|Objectives, Study materials, Practicals|
|1||Storing plantain and banana|
|2||Improving storage life|
|3||Temperature, humidity and ventilation|
|5||Treatment of fruit|
|6||Improving postharvest handling|
|8||Suggestions for trainers|