Banana exporter seeking government assistance


The Pilipino Banana Growers and Entrepreneurs Association (PBGEA) is calling for fewer government fees and more supportive ordinances to pump up the troubled industry.

PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig said on Thursday that it would also help to have simpler procedures for the compliance of stakeholders.

Specifically, Antig cited the possible reduction in lodgment fees with the Bureau of Customs, as well as the “suspension of wharfage fees until the situation gets better”.

Considering the logistics problems that surfaced during the pandemic, he said local government units (LGUs) should also slash or retract some of their additional protocols on banana growers and entrepreneurs.

“The LGUs (should) refrain from coming up with ordinances that encroach on the right to contract freely,” Antig said.

In a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report released on March 12, fresh bananas recorded the worst dip among the top 10 major commodity groups in terms of the value of exports at -46.9 percent as of January 2021.

Manufactured goods followed at -12.8 percent; machinery and transport equipment, -11.9 percent; and coconut oil, -11.7 percent.

“The industry is surviving though it has a lot of problems,” he added.

PSA data also showed that the value of banana exports in January fell by 47 percent to $84.659 million from $159.454 million in 2020.

“Planting bananas is still okay but the size should be economical and you should have a ready market,” Antig said.

Most banana plantations are located in Mindanao, with the Davao region accounting for 39 percent of the country’s total banana production, followed by Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen with 19 percent and 12 percent, respectively, according to PSA data.

In a recent virtual briefer of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Director for High-Value Crops Program U-Nicholls Manalo said there is a stimulus fund to revive the banana sector.

He attributed the decline in produce to the spread of Fusarium wilt, widely known as the Panama disease, a soil-borne fungal disease that initially attacks the roots of banana plants.

The disease turns the leaves of banana plants from green to yellow before eventually wilting.

Areas infected with the Panama disease may have already doubled to 30,000 hectares from the 15,000 hectares identified by the DA in 2015, data showed.

Small banana plantations account for almost half of more than 88,000 hectares planted with the Cavendish variety, Manalo said.

“It’s not only the Philippine market that has been affected but other nations too,” he said.

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