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Green bananas produce highly nutritious flour

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th December 2005 03:00 AM

BANANA farmers in the country will soon have a reason to smile. This follows research that now turns green bananas into flour.

BANANA farmers in the country will soon have a reason to smile. This follows research that now turns green bananas into flour.

By Timothy Makokha
and Cathy Baguma

BANANA farmers in the country will soon have a reason to smile. This follows research that now turns green bananas into flour. Dr. Florence Muranga (right) of the Department of Food Science and Technology, Makerere University, carried out the banana research, which spanned over a decade.
Dr. Muranga says as a result of this innovation, banana farmers will gain from the added value of their processed products.
“The banana flour is definitely more usable and durable than the green banana,” she says.
Uganda is the second biggest producer of bananas in the world after India. With about 10 million tonnes per year, Uganda makes 30 percent of the world’s banana produce.
Dr. Muranga, however, says that in most banana-producing areas, tonnes of matooke never leave the farms.
“In Bushenyi, people own graveyards for matooke. For lack of ready markets, the perishable matooke ends up rotting in the gardens,” she says. Poor road networks and narrow markets, coupled with poor storage facilities, have been the biggest limitations to banana farmers in the country.
Building on Dr. Muranga’s research, President Yoweri Museveni last month launched the management committee of the Presidential Initiative for Banana Industrial Development (PIBID).
Dr. Muranga, the PIBID project director, says the initiative will enable the production of banana flour on large scale.
She says following the research, there are three types of banana flour whose patents have been filed. “We have made raw banana flour from milling dried banana. This is a perfect substitute for wheat, which is usually imported,” Dr. Muranga says.
“We also have ready-to-serve flour made through extrusion cooking. It is highly soluble and therefore recommended for children’s porridge,” she says. Dr. Muranga says the fact that this type is concentrated on starch makes it an ideal meal for sportsmen.
“Unlike earlier assertions, banana flour is actually rich in starch. Up to 85% of dried matooke is starch.”
Dr. Muranga says PIBID is working in collaboration with industrialists and researchers from the US to fortify this flour with fish concentrates. “The additional formulation of this flour will necessarily prove valuable in boosting the anti-bodies of the systems of HIV/AIDS patients.”
Dr. Muranga says from the Instant Matooke Flour, which is made from cooked banana, people will make instant porridge. “In future, we won’t throw out cooked matooke as waste. This can be changed into a rich meal. Up to 90% of instant porridge is starch. It is high on fibre, which lowers cholesterol levels in our bodies. It also has potassium, an element that is deemed a perfect alternative to sodium in dealing with high blood pressure,” she says. During the launch of the PIBID project in October, Museveni said Ugandans are healthy largely because they feed on matooke that is rich in potassium. “Because most Ugandans feed on matooke, hardly will you see them complain about heart-related illnesses,” he said.
Dr. Muranga says through PIBID, the Government steers industrialisation of banana production by fuelling community, primary value-addition industries as well as scale-up enterprises.
“PIBID seeks to develop extensive state-of-the-art banana-based sustainable processing enterprises. With PIBID, we transfer technology from the laboratory to the stakeholders in the farms. This ensures sustainable production of banana products with optimum market competitiveness,” she says.
She says they intend to set up a research centre in Bushenyi DFI for bulking of the dry banana products. The centre will also transfer value addition and expertise to banana producing areas, liaise with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards on the quality of the products and look out for the market for products.
Dr. Muranga says there is a huge market for banana flour both locally and internationally. “Hot Loaf, a local confectionary, has already pledged to buy our flour. In flour, our schools have found a perfect alternative to posho, which uses a lot of fuel to prepare.”
She says the World Food Programme will soon start buying banana flour, which is suited for those in Internally Displaced People’s camps because it is easy to prepare.
Ends

Green bananas produce highly nutritious flour

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