P500M needed to put up banana research center

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Aug) – Some P500 million will be needed to establish the Banana Research and Development Center that will help maintain the position of the Philippines in the global trade.

Stephen Antig, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director, said in an interview that the industry here lacks a topnotch laboratory “where we can do tissue culture and develop new varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases” compared to other banana-producing countries like Taiwan, Belgium, Mozambique, and Ecuador that have laboratories supported by the government because these are costly to run.

A resolution was passed during the National Banana Congress at the SMX Convention Center last 2016 endorsing the establishment of a research center.

The resolution said the country’s banana industry is facing serious challenges that threaten its viability such as climate change, diseases including Fusarium Wilt, Black Sigatoka, Banana Bunchy Top and Moko; and competition from other banana-producing countries that are devoting much resources to research and development of better varieties and more efficient and advanced farm technologies.

It said the research and development center is essential in providing scientific, technical and environment-friendly technologies and processes to promote the development of the industry from pre-production to post-harvest and from farm to market.

During the congress, President Rodrigo R. Duterte supported the call of the banana industry players to establish a Philippine Banana Industry Council and Banana Research and Development Center to address concerns besetting the industry, but not through an executive order, explaining that is a need to have a law so that these will get sufficient funding.

“One of the priorities that we really need in the industry right now is the banana research institute or banana research facilities because we are lagging behind as far as our competitors are concerned,” Antig said.

He said the laboratory would benefit mostly the small cooperatives banana producers who cannot afford to set up facilities to do the research.

Antig said big banana exporters here have their own laboratories but they could not share results of their research because of “trade secret.”

“We need one that will cater not only to the big producers but also to small producers, and not only for Cavendish bananas but for all varieties,” he said.

He said industry players are hoping the facility will be established immediately as the competitiveness of the Philippines in the world market is eroding every year.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that banana exports from January to June 2019 reached $983 million, higher by 57.5% compared to $624 million recorded in the same period last year.

Antig said they are set to meet with Agriculture Secretary William Dar on August 22 in Davao City to discuss the major concerns of the industry players and implement the programs in the industry’s development road map that was signed in December 2018 by Secretary Manny Piñol. Piñol has been appointed chair of the Mindanao Development Authority. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)