Creation of research institute for banana pushed

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 April) – Senator Teofisto “TG” D. Guingona III vowed to support the creation of a Philippine Banana Institute and is considering authoring a Senate counterpart of a bill being filed at the House of Representatives.

In an interview held at the launch of the Vanodine disinfectant for fusarium earlier this week, Guingona said Mindanao would benefit the most from the creation of a central agency dedicated to the study and development of bananas.

Mindanao contributes to more than 50 percent of the Philippines’ banana output.

Guingona said a bill has been filed at the House of Representatives by Rep. Anton Lagdameo creating a banana research institute initially with the aim of finding ways to combat Panama disease, known as fusarium wilt.

The fungus threatens the island’s $720-million banana industry, according to a statement from the House of Representatives website.

Lagdameo said in a statement that the creation of the institute would also address food security issues in the country as well as fight diseases dreading the products.

Guingona added that the creation of a national agency would address a major aspect of the issues facing the banana industry.

“There are two types of worries, one type is political, the other is environmental,” Guingona said, adding that he was fully supportive of “science-based” approaches to solving the diseases attacking bananas being exported from the Philippines.

“I share the view that scientific research is necessary to improve the variety of our bananas and their protection against the effect of climate change,” Guingona said.

He said the issue was brought to his attention even during the early days of his term in the Senate in 2010, when the country was still looking for markets such as Iran.

The labor sector, too, would benefit from the creation of the institute.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment, the cavendish banana industry is one of the region’s key employment generators, accounting for at least one-fifth of the total number of workers in the region.

The department said the region’s labor force has grown by 5.3 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Fusarium wilt has been attributed as among the top three reasons the industry has experienced a decline in output since 2011.

Other factors are the phytosanitary inspection requirements set by the China market.

Another major blow to the industry is the after-effects of Typhoon Pablo, which hit the region late in 2012.

Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association president Stephen Antig said in an interview that the industry could be facing a surplus in output at the end of 2014 unless former satellite countries of Russia could be tapped as new markets.

Antig added the demand for fresh cavendish would drop 7 percent at the end of 2014.

DOLE has also identified the Davao region as being a consistent top producer of bananas, producing close to half of the Philippines’ output for all varieties and providing at least 50 percent of the national production for cavendish.

Top destinations for cavendish bananas are Japan, China, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia.