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Water shortages have forced the main banana producer in Maputo province, Bananalandia, to cut its production by 25 per cent, according to a report in Friday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais”.
Although there have been encouraging rains in the province over the past few days, this has not been sufficient to reverse the effect of the drought earlier this year, caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
The drought brought water levels at the reservoir behind the Pequenos Libombos dam on the Umbeluzi river to critically low levels. Normally the reservoir should be 47 metres high, but the level has now dropped to 33 metres.
A fortnight ago, the Minister of Public Works, Carlos Bonete, ordered that no more water from the Pequenos Libombos can be used for irrigation. The priority, he said, is to ensure drinking water for the Greater Maputo conurbation (the cities of Maputo and Matola and Boane district), which is dependent on the Umbeluzi water pumping and treatment station.
On the banks of the Umbeluzi, below the dam, there are six agro-industrial companies dependent on irrigation, and the main crop they grow is bananas. Bananalandia has been forced to reduce its production from 780 to 585 tonnes a month, a cut of 25 per cent.
On top of the water shortage, high temperatures have damaged the bananas shortly before they were due to be harvested. As a result the fruit has lost the quality demanded by the buyers. Bananalandia’s main clients are the supermarket chains operating in Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho.
Speaking to a visiting government delegation, headed by Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, the Bananalandia director of production, Manuel Maluana, warned that, unless the water situation improves, the company will soon be forced to lay off some of its workers.
“If ran falls, and the dam fills up, none of the workers will be made redundant”, he promised. “But if the current situation prevails, we shall be obliged to review the contracts. We have some workers whose contracts end in two or three months. We shall be obliged not to renew these contracts”.Source: AIM