Mozambique’s major commercial banana producer, Bananalandia, in Boane district about 30 km west from Maputo, has seen production levels decrease by half due to a lack of water for irrigation.
The company’s banana plantations are highly dependent on the Umbeluzi River for water, which in turn depends on the level of water stored by the Pequenos Libombos Dam. In December 2016, authorities banned the use of water from the dam for irrigation. Water from this dam is primarily for the use of the Umbeluzi water treatment and pumping station, which provides drinking water for Maputo and the neighbouring city of Matola.
Manuel Maluana, Director of Production at Bananaladia, said that since these restrictions came into effect production fell by over 50%, and the quality of the bananas produced have also suffered. Bananaladia has been forced to stop all production of the XL (extra-large) type of banana.
Maluluana added that the average weight of a bunch of bananas has fallen from 60 kg to 50 kg.
Also read: Drought takes hold in Southern Africa
Currently, the company exports 1 200 tons of bananas to South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland monthly, but it used to export twice this amount before the water crisis occurred. “The company’s 7 production units also used to distribute 50 tons of bananas a day to the domestic market, but that has now fallen to 25 tons a day,” said Maluana.
All the company’s expansion projects had to be put on hold too. The plan was to export bananas to the Middle East and to set up new plantations in the Moamba and Namaacha districts. However, without water for irrigation, none of this can be done.
Maluana admitted that instead of looking for alternative sources, such as drilling boreholes, they are hoping that the abnormally dry conditions will end, and that the current rainy season will be the company’s saviour.
Even though the current levels of production are far from ideal, they are enough to keep the company operating, and to pay its running costs, including its workers’ wages, and basic inputs such as fertiliser.
“We have to wait for more rainfall to improve production. Irrigation depends on the Umbeluzi River, which is fed from the Pequenos Libombos Dam. Filling the dam reservoir depends on rainfall further upstream,” said Maluana.
According to the Boane district government, the reservoir is currently only 20.14 % full.