Banana production in the first quarter fell to its lowest level in four years, as Fusarium wilt affected over 30,000 hectares of banana plantations and reduced output by 2.43 percent year-on-year to 2.063 million metric tons (MMT).
Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that banana output from January to March declined by 51,389.60 metric tons (MT), from last year’s 2.114 MMT.
Historical PSA data showed that this is the lowest first quarter output for the fruit in four years since the 2.048 MMT recorded in 2016.
”The main reason for the decline would be Fusarium wilt,” Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) Executive Director Stephen A. Antig told the BusinessMirror.
Antig estimated that around 20 percent of the country’s area planted with bananas have been damaged by Panama disease.
As of March, he said, the disease has already affected about 30,000 hectares to 40,000 hectares of banana plantations in Mindanao.
PSA data obtained by BusinessMirror showed that the production of Cavendish banana declined by 3.11 percent to 1.158 MMT, from 1.195 MMT in the same period last year.
Cavendish production accounted for 56 percent of total banana output, PSA data showed.
Antig said the decline in local banana output will continue in the remaining quarters of the year due to the spread of Fusarium wilt and unfavorable weather conditions. These factors, Antig pointed out, would pull down total banana shipments this year.
”Production will continue to decline, especially with the heat we are experiencing right now. Small and medium growers will be gravely affected by the drought,” he said.
”And even if you have installed irrigation systems, if the drought persists, then water in your impounding system will eventually dry up, which has happened in the past,” he added.
Economist Pablito M. Villegas echoed Antig’s sentiment that the drought would be a huge problem for banana growers as it will result in the lower productivity of trees.
“Expect full-year banana production and exports to decline due to drought and impact of Panama disease,” Villegas told the BusinessMirror. ”Our rainy season is late. It should be raining by now.”
Despite the decline in output, Philippine banana exports in the first quarter grew 10.71 percent to 1.18 MMT, from last year’s 1.066 MMT, PSA data obtained and analyzed by the BusinessMirror showed.
PSA data also showed that the value of total exports during the period went up by 1.73 percent to $489.154 million, from $480.805 million recorded a year ago.
PBGEA expects shipments to drop by as much as 40 percent in terms of volume this year due to the spread of Fusarium wilt, climate change, and the aggravating impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 on trade.
The country’s banana shipments in 2019 reached a record-high 4.4 MMT, which was valued at nearly $2 billion, PSA data showed.
Antig said a ”best-case scenario” would be a 20-percent to 23-percent reduction in export volume, which he noted is “not bad,” given the challenges currently confronting the industry.