DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 Aug) – China’s quarantine office will send representatives to Mindanao to inspect the banana plantations here, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig said Tuesday.
In an interview, Antig said that the visit of Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (ASIQ) representatives is to check if the banana companies meet the stringent rules on the phytosanitary protocols, most especially on the handling of fruits and practices at the packing facilities.
He said that Vivencio Mamaril, acting director of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry-Plant Quarantine Service (BPI-PQS), coordinated with the ASIQ representatives to push through with the visit.
“The Chinese government will not entertain private entities. The negotiation has to be done between government to government,” he said.
Antig is confident that PBGEA members will pass the phytosanitary protocols of the Chinese market, being the fourth largest buyer of the country’s Cavendish bananas.
The association has a total of 27 member companies, covering 40,000 hectares of 83,000 hectares planted to bananas in Mindanao.
He said Japan is top importer of Philippine bananas but its demand has been on plateau for several years. Middle East is second biggest market and South Korea is third biggest.
“It’s a good thing you can see first-hand how the bananas are packed,” he said. “We cannot just let the banana industry to die in Mindanao because Mindanao cannot be Mindanao without the bananas,” he said.
A few containers of Cavendish bananas from the Philippines this year were destroyed upon reaching China in separate shipments after inspectors allegedly found insect infestation and excessive chemical use, he said.
Antig said banana industry leaders are hopeful it will not yet end amid the threat of Fusarium Wilt, or the Panama disease.
He added they are continuously exploring Fusarium wilt-resistant varieties such as GTC 218 and GTC 219 but large banana players are conscious about planting these two as they have yet to test the acceptability of the market.
“We have not yet stopped doing this research. Ang mga individual members kanya-kanya din sila. The taste and gestation period take longer, it takes more months to grow, and sometimes the shape (is different). If you can replicate a new variety which is exactly same as the original, then that would be the best,” he said.
He said PBGEA members cannot replace Cavendish with the new resistant varieties just yet because they are able to contain the Fusarium wilt with good farm management.
“Most of the members have planted these varieties but they did not totally replace Cavendish. What is good, we already know what varieties are resistant but the preference of the market is still Cavendish,” he said.
Antig hoped the small banana players are able to successfully contain the disease “because they have no logistical and financial capabilities to produce the necessary measures to contain or prevent the spread of Panama disease.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)