Banana players expanding in Visayas sugarcane fields due to fear of another Pablo in Mindanao

mar 28, 2014

Some big banana producing companies are currently expanding in Visayas due to fear of another typhoon of the same of ferocity of Pablo will strike in Mindanao lands where cavendish bananas are traditionally planted like in Davao del Norte.

This as low pressure area (LPA) has been frequently crossing the once largely typhoon-free provinces in Mindanao like Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley in what seems to be already a part of climate change.

“Sometime, some members are expanding in other areas due to threat that typhoon Pablo might revisit. Some players have moved to Visayas and have started to consider areas planted with sugarcane,” said Stephen Antig, executive director of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA).

“But banana production is expanding also in General Santos, South Cotabato and ARMM areas,” he told members of the provincial board during their sesssion Monday.

He said he recently read a news report that banana production would also expand in the “massacre area” in Maguindanao through a joint venture between a foreign group and the local government unit.

At the same, Antig apprised the body that the 14,000 hectares of banana plantation wrought by typhoon Pablo in December 2012 are now on the way to recovery and its rehabilitation could be completed by the “end of 2014 or early 2015|”.

“As of 2013 we are still the second biggest exporter of bananas in the world next to Ecuador. There are 82,000 hectares planted with bananas spread over 13 provinces including the ARMM. More than 160,000 individuals are directly dependent on the banana industry, and if we consider the support industries, there are more than 2 million individuals who are indirectly dependent on it,” he said.

An estimated P26-29 billion comes out from the banana industry every payday, he added.

“There is so much money in circulation that whenever it’s payday in Tagum City and Panabo City even the GROs (guest relations officers or drinking bar girls) are happy,” he said in gist.

Presently the banana industry is facing problems and threats such as the continued pestilence of the Panama and Sigatoka diseases to banana plants.

Antig said that the Panama disease is soil-borne and is spread through banana seedlings while banana companies are trying to continue but “there is still no known cure, no chemical discovered” to eradicate it.

He warned that the destruction of banana production in Panama, Taiwan and Malaysia by the Panama disease “can happen in the Philippines” and hence it can bring a “big blow not only to Davao del Norte but also to the entire country.”

On the other hand, Severino Mercado, a big banana grower in Davao del Norte, said that Sigatoka leaf spot disease can only be effectively contained by the use of aerial spraying.

Spray aircraft flies though at a high cost.

“We spend P150,000 to P200,000 per 30 minutes of the small plane. It costs an average of P120,000 per hectare per year,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization reported Sigatoka disease devastated banana plantations in Caribbean island countries in the 1990s and their banana trade almost ground to a halt. (Rural Urban News/Cha Monforte)

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