Banana industry ends year in bad shape; sees challenging year ahead

DAVAO CITY, Dec. 26 (PNA) -- The year 2015 is not a good year for the banana industry as stakeholders hardly recovered from losses due to unresolved problems. Industry leaders even anticipate a carryover of the difficulties into 2016.

This was expressed by Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig, who said 2016 could even be a bleak year for the banana industry if problems continue unresolved.

He mentioned Panama disease that continues to wreak havoc on the banana farms and it has never been contained even with the development of resistant variety of Cavendish banana. He said it has not been perfected as yet.

He said if they can produce the disease resistant variety “we still have to find out if it will be accepted in the market”. “Definitely there will be a change in the taste,” he added.

While they teamed up with the Philippine Council for Agriculture Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) and the Southern Philippines Agri-business and Marine Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST) in developing such variety, Antig said it takes several years and the process will take 10 to 15 years before it can be released to the market.

He said there were PBGEA member-companies that undertake Research and Development costing to some Php 200 million for the development of Panama disease management program. It includes set of packages. He disclosed that in 2016 it will already be on stage 3 of the set of packages.

In fact, Antig said they were in the process of conducting a study on the Development of an Integrated Management Program of Fusarium Wilt Diseases affecting Cavendish banana in their laboratory in Lapoy, Mandug, this city. He said a field trial area of about 10 hectares is covered for the study.

Antig also voiced concern over prospect of sustaining their market. "We are losing our market" considering that other countries Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Mayanmar, Cambodia have been aggressive in their production and also selling their produce to their main market - China and Japan. Ecuador and other Latin American countries, he said were also competing with their market.

He said they foresee a banana world war in the market and a big disadvantage since production cost is much higher than their competitors.

In 2014, the banana export volume in boxes reached 90,147,480 from January to September and decreased to 85,324,491 for the same period this year.

Antig also voiced concern on the possible impact of El Nino, which the Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) pronounced would extend until June 2016. “If farms are hit by this weather pattern its effect will be felt three months after that is until September of next year thus making it harder for the industry to recover,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Antig reported that big plantation companies operating here are now in the process of developing banana farms in countries like Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam and Taiwan.

"This is in preparation for their next move if they see that it is no longer viable to operate a plantation here in the Philippines," he said.

Currently, the total area planted to exportable banana is 42,316.41 hectares which is smaller from 2014 with a total area of 44,479.65 hectares or a difference of 2,163.24 hectares. (PNA)


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