Disease-ravaged banana sector to get P 263-M gov’t assistance
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is injecting P263 million in fresh funds to the banana industry to combat the persistent fusarium wilt, a kind of fungal disease that caused banana production to decline by 20 percent during the first quarter of the year.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the funding, which was earmarked under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, would be used to rehabilitate areas ravaged by the disease since the affected plantations could no longer be used to cultivate banana and other soft-stemmed crops.
The agency will also develop banana varieties resistant to the disease to ensure that the local industry continues to produce quality bananas for local and international markets.
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association Inc. earlier called on the agency’s help to control and mitigate the spread of the wilt, commonly known as Panama disease, which did not only cut banana output but also reduced the country’s hectarage for bananas by 20 percent.
The Philippines is the second top exporter of Cavendish bananas after Ecuador, but this could easily be challenged if the Panama disease is not contained.
For the seven months to July this year, the Philippines’ export earnings from bananas decreased by 11 percent to $1.03 billion from last year’s $1.16 billion mainly due to the spread of the fusarium wilt.
“I am afraid we are already losing our traditional market share. Given the current situation, our markets still have the disposable income to buy bananas, most especially at this time of a pandemic. There is simply no reason for them not to buy. And yet, the Philippines is losing in the export war. What happened?” the secretary asked. INQ
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