PBGEA: Banana research center should be at no cost to banana industry players

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 Aug) – The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) maintained that the establishment of the Banana Research and Development Center should be at no cost to banana industry stakeholders.

Reacting to the proposal of newly installed Agriculture Secretary William Dar that the government will pay half of the cost while the other half will be shouldered by the banana players, PGEA executive director Stephen Antig said on Monday that the government should fund the project without counterpart from them as it will be the small and medium-sized growers who benefit most from it.

“No. It should be the government – 100%. The ones who will benefit the most are the small and medium-sized growers,” he added.

Antig said he is waiting for the Department of Agriculture in the Davao Region to set another meeting with other banana players to “work on the details and the mechanism” because “PBGEA is not the only stakeholder in the banana industry.”

But Antig said they would study the concept paper to be drafted by the agency first to see if “there is a way to raise the stakeholders’ counterpart without burdening them.”

Dar told reporters last Saturday that he proposed to leaders of the industry that there be a 50-50 sharing agreement between government and banana stakeholders to establish the research center as the DA is also constrained with limited budget.

“One commitment once the research program is developed, what will follow is the setting up of a research center for banana, 50% from government and 50% from them,” he said.

The secretary hopes big players can help the small ones so that the concept of “big brother-small brother working together” will be realized in the banana industry.

“The department will only come in if the two groups will work together. And what are these two groups? These are the big players, PBGEA, and smaller banana growers. We have to work as one,” he said.

Antig said earlier the center might cost P500 million because it is envisioned to feature topnotch laboratory “where we can do tissue culture and develop new varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases.” He added that other top banana-producing countries like Taiwan, Belgium, Mozambique, and Ecuador 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 in 2016, endorsing the establishment of a Philippine Banana Research and Development 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.

Antig said the 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. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)