Magazine article African Business

Cashing in on Banana Chips

Magazine article African Business

Cashing in on Banana Chips

Article excerpt

One of the rare fruits that has gained great importance in Mauritius is the banana, the green one that Maubon Foods, an SME located at La Flora, a small village in the south of the island, transforms into banana chips and export to Europe and South Africa.

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"Business is now booming," says director Ved Luchmun, as demand for his chips from European buyers puts him under pressure to source the raw material that Mauritian farmers have never thought of cultivating on a commercial scale.

"Mauritians only eat ripe bananas and some cook the green ones, but they had never come across banana chips until I launched my enterprise a few years back," Luchmun says. It took some years to also convince local consumers, who are always hesitant about local products.

Maubon Foods had needed about two tons of green bananas monthly to produce the chips to meet customers' demand but with the market expanding, his small factory now needs to process about 10 tons a month, which produces some 6.5t of banana chips. That is not enough, Luchman concedes. "We need more green bananas but there are not many farmers who cultivate them."

Farmers in Mauritius have always preferred to cultivate sugar cane. Now that the price of sugar has fallen on the European market, many are abandoning their sugar fields, and Luchmun sees an opportunity for them to diversify into banana cultivation. "I see large areas of abandoned land everywhere," the entrepreneur says, "but farmers hesitate to invest in banana cultivation fearing they might not have a market for their produce. …

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