Banana growers still struggling 2 years after Pablo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 Nov) – Two years after super typhoon Pablo devastated vast plantations, the banana industry is still struggling to recover, the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) revealed.

PBGEA President Anthony Alexander Valoria said Wednesday that almost 14,000 hectares of banana plantations were destroyed due to strong winds and heavy flooding brought by the super typhoon on December 4, 2012.

Of the total devastated area, he said about 4,000 hectares, most of them in Compostela Valley Province, have not yet recovered.

“The banana industry is still struggling. It takes over a million pesos to develop a banana plantation,” the PBGEA chair told reporters before the opening of the Davao Trade Expo (DATE) 2014 at the SMX Convention Center in SM Lanang.

Valoria, also the president and chief executive officer of Anflo Management and Investment Corporation (Anflocor), said loan assistance from the government to the small growers were not enough for them to be able to recover.

“There hasn’t been enough support. There should have been more, given the huge contribution of the banana industry in the socio-economic development in Mindanao. For us, let’s say Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (Tadeco), obviously we can take care of ourselves. But it’s really the small growers who were hit really hard,” he said.

Tadeco is one of the companies under Anflocor.

The Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) has offered a rehabilitation loan package of P430,000 to the affected growers early last year.

In January 2013, Stephen Antig, PBGEA executive director, pegged the rehabilitation cost—excluding infrastructures such as packing houses, irrigation system and cable way—at about P600,000 per hectare.

After Pablo hit the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte, the PBGEA estimated that the industry lost P7.7 billion as of December 10, 2012.

PBGEA estimates the total rehabilitation cost at P6.9 billion.

“The problem now with Compostela Valley is that they’ve been given a wake up call that there could be typhoons that pass the area. So it is difficult to justify huge investments there,” Valoria explained, adding that businessmen now have hesitance to reinvest in the province.

Thus, some investors are looking at other areas where they could invest on banana plantations, he added.

Valoria emphasized that with the devastation wrought by the typhoon, coupled with flooding, banana diseases are bound to spread in the plantations, too.

The PBGEA chair added that investors are now considering the impacts of climate change to the banana industry.

Thus, Valoria noted the importance of holding the Davao Trade Expo this year, which aims to, among others, strengthen the banana industry. He said the event encourages interaction among players in the market.