LOCAL banana growers and exporters are urging the new agriculture secretary to prioritize the establishment of a fruit research center that would aid not just the banana industry but other high-value crops in combating pests as well as boosting productivity.
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) is still pinning its hopes on the Marcos Jr. administration’s being true to its promise to establish a research institute that would help the banana industry as well as other fruits sectors to produce planting materials that are high-yielding and resistant to pests.
PBGEA Executive Director Stephen A. Antig said they are reiterating this call in light of the recent appointment of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.
Antig said the establishment of the research institute is one of the things that the new agriculture chief must prioritize in helping the development of the high value crops industry.
“Focus on the establishment of the research development which will not only cater to bananas and pineapples but possible to all high-value crops that we are exporting. We are in dire need of it right now,” Antig told the BusinessMirror.
Several bills are pending in both houses of Congress that seek to support the local banana industry either through the establishment of a research development centers or a dedicated export council. One of these is Senate Bill 1304 filed by Sen. Imee R. Marcos, that has remained pending at the committee level.
Antig noted that the industry has yet to embrace a true Panama disease-resistant banana variety to curb the spread of the disease that has been wreaking havoc on local farms. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/02/27/amid-sagging-yield-banana-sector-eyes-research-center/)
PBGEA earlier estimated that about 15,000 hectares to 36,000 hectares of the total 88,000 hectares planted with bananas nationwide are infested with Panama disease.
The group had also warned before that the banana industry would be in a more dire state in five years if they will not be able to identify a Panama disease-resistant variety in the absence of a research facility.
The other proposal of PBGEA to the leadership of Laurel is to seek the reduction of the hefty tariffs slapped by Japan on Philippine bananas, Antig said. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2022/10/24/life-or-death-for-bananas-time-to-press-japan-for-zero-tariffs-marcos-urged/)
Last year, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the vice chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, cautioned that the country’s banana industry is already facing a “life-or-death” situation this decade amid compounded threats of diseases, global competition, investor flight, and climate change.