Smallholder dealers involved in vending of bananas have discovered innovative, but natural methods to quicken the ripening process of fruits.
This comes in the wake of allegations that some unscrupulous fruit sellers are applying harmful industrial chemicals to speed up ripening of popular fruits.
However, traders in fruits sub-sector in Murang’a refute the claims, saying they use traditional methods and knowledge to incubate fruits without inducing the process with reagents as alleged.
Esther Mururi, a banana and avocado dealer in Maragua town, says at her banana ripening chambers, she uses leaves from local shrubs to provide warmth for the fruits to ripen faster.
Esther, a member of Maragua Banana Sellers Self-Help Group, says no member of the association can be allowed to jeopardise their business by engaging in unorthodox ways to prepare the fruits. She says avocados and passion fruits possess a certain gas, which accelerates the ripening of other fruits, when incubated in a chamber.
Speaking, while cutting avocados into tiny pieces, Esther says green bananas are arranged well in the chamber and then pieces of avocados are laid in a pattern on top. Dry banana leaves and shrubs are used to cover the banana heap and the chamber is locked tightly.
Mururi says the avocado pieces produce a gas when they start to decompose, which facilitates the ripening process in three to four days. “Vendors here mostly use avocados and passion fruits to produce the ripening gas. I have not heard of any health risk attributed to fruits ripened this was,” she says.
According to Murang’a South agriculture officer, John Waihenya, avocados produce ethylene gas, which has the ability to quicken ripening of other fruits. Ethylene gas is a ripening hormone, which occurs naturally in some fruits, he says.
The gas is described as a hydrocarbon, which is used in many industrial applications. Some of the fruits producing ethylene gas include apples, pears, passion fruits, apricot, mangoes and avocados.
“Following the warning by the Department of Public Health, agricultural officers are watching fruit dealers in bid to contain sale of contaminated produce,” he said.
The national director of Public Health, Dr Kepha Ombacho, early this year warned that some greedy traders were fermenting fruits with dangerous chemicals to quicken the ripening process. “Some elements applied are carcinogenic,” he said.