PBGEA sees slow growth for banana industry in 2016

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 December) – The executive director of an organization of banana growers and exporters said the banana industry will experience slow growth next year as the challenges that bogged down the industry in 2015 – Fusarium Wilt or the Panama disease, El Nino, and intense competition in the global market – are expected to continue in 2016.

Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) told reporters on Saturday that these challenges prompted some of the banana growers to switch to other crops, if not intercrop with cacao trees.

He said the long dry spell has affected the production level, explaining that bananas yield smaller output during El Nino, which is expected to last until summer of 2016.

Antig said the impact of this long dry spell on the bananas will be evident three months after.

Banana exporters were only able to produce 85,324,491 boxes from January to September 2015, down by 5.35 percent compared to 90,147,480 boxes for the same period in 2014.

“Some four million boxes were lost,” he said.

Resistant to Fusarium Wilt

The PBGEA embarked on a study on the “Development of an Integrated Management Program for Fusarium Wilt for Cavendish,” at the 10-hectare testing area of PBGEA’s laboratory in Lapuy, Mandug

Antig said the PBGEA spends P14 million a year for every stage of the study, comprising six packages each.

He said they have yet to perfect a variety that is resistant to Fusarium Wilt.

He said they are hoping that eventually they will succeed in coming up with that variety. “We’re keeping our fingers-crossed,” he said.

He said there have been efforts before to develop a resistant variety but no one has started planting it on a commercial scale because they cannot determine yet if this will be accepted by the market.

“We’ve had success but not 100 percent. Is it going to be accepted by the market” he asked, adding “there .re changes in the taste.”

The resistant varieties of Cavendish are the GCTCV218 and OT219, he said.

Global competition

Another problem being faced by the country’s banana growers is the tighter global competition and oversupply of production, he said.

Other banana-producing countries such as Ecuador, Sri Lanka and India have started shipping out to the existing global markets of the country, he said, claiming they can sell their bananas half the price offer of the Philippines.

Antig said the competition is expected to grow even tighter when ASEAN neighbors Vietnam and Indonesia will develop fully their export potentials for bananas.

The Department of Agriculture regional office received some P102 million budget for 2015 in a bid to eradicate Fusarium Wilt, through another variety called GCTCV 219 that appeared to be 90 percent resistant to the disease. (Antonio L. Colina IV/ MindaNews)