Ivory Coast's banana output is expected to nearly double within two years thanks to the recent arrival of two large producers and initiatives to promote local farmers and regional trade, an industry official said on Thursday.
Though Ivory Coast is better known as the world's top cocoa producer, it is also one of Africa's biggest banana growers, with the sector supporting thousands of jobs and exporting mainly to Europe.
"With the arrival two years ago of two big companies ... and the installation of new small-scale planters, we expect to produce about 500,000 tonnes of bananas within two years," Emmanuel Dolly, executive secretary of the country's main fruit exporters' organisation OBAMCI, told Reuters.
Ivory Coast produced about 280,000 tonnes of bananas in 2016.
The two new companies, BANACI and SIAPA, both from the Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, should be able to produce a combined 200,000 tonnes in the next two years, Dolly said.
Six large companies currently account for all of the country's banana production but Dolly said that 20 small farmers were expected to begin producing by early 2018 with financial backing from the European Union.
Expansion to other African markets
They will produce an estimated 20,000-25,000 tonnes a year, he said.
Dolly also said that Ivory Coast aims to increase exports to neighbouring countries Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania from an annual 20,000-25,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes but did not specify a time frame.
"The exported volumes have progressed and we want to boost regional commerce to contend with competition from Latin American bananas on the European market," he said.
Dolly added that Ivory Coast would seek to expand exports to Nigerian and North African markets.