Philippines losing banana experts

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Aug) – The Philippines is losing its banana experts to its Southeast Asian neighbors after being pirated by other players in the region who have sought to become a significant force in the global banana trade.

Speaking during “Wednesdays’ at Habi Kape,” Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig expressed concern that the country might slowly run out of experts to work on its own banana farms as its Southeast Asian competitors have also started developing their banana industry to the detriment of local growers.

“What is alarming is that they have been pirating a lot of our technical people, offering them three times, four times more than what they’re getting. It is possible there is brain drain in the Philippine banana industry because, as they say, money is still the best motivating factor,” he said.

Antig said it is worrisome if the brain drain among Filipino experts persists as the success of the Philippine banana industry is largely due to its highly skilled banana experts.

“We are really worried about that. We cannot afford to lose our good technical people who are very experienced in terms of banana growing. Humility aside, I believe we grow one of the best, if not the best, bananas in the world, even outperforming the production of Latin American competitors,” he added.

The Philippines is still one of the biggest banana producers in the world, along with India, China and Ecuador.

He called on all the banana stakeholders, including the government, to “get our acts together” to maintain its position in the global competition, as he feared that the country’s competitiveness in the world market is eroding each 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.

“It’s not only the private sector that should come into play, we definitely need the help of the government,” he said, hoping to get the support of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and newly-appointed Agriculture Secretary William Dar for the development of the banana industry.

Antig said they are set to meet with 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 former Secretary Manny Piñol. The latter has been appointed chair of the Mindanao Development Authority. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)