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The Department of Agriculture (DA) believes the banana industry remains a leading export income-earner for farmers.
Melani Provido, coordinator of high-value crops in the Davao Region, said there are no major losses in the banana industry and that based on 2011 data, there is a 7-percent steady growth in production, of which there is a 1.8-percent growth on the Cavendish variety.
She said in terms of areas planted, the banana is continuously expanding by 2 percent.
“There are some setbacks but no major losses although profits of exporters might have decreased,” she said over a phone interview.
“China, which is just one of the banana-importing countries, has never closed its market for the Philippines but it has upgraded its quality standards. In the previous years we deliver the B and C [classification of] bananas. Now they would like to import those with the same banana quality which we export to Japan,” Provido said.
In response to the higher standards set in the market in the recent past, the DA frontloaded funds and built the necessary infrastructure to help local banana growers meet the export market.
“Over and above the funds earmarked by the DA, we also have the P50 million Presidential Social Fund to assist us in our various infrastructure projects and technology training to meet the standards of the export market,” she said.
In a recent press briefing, Provido said the DA has already allotted P100 million for the packing houses of 14 cooperatives in the region.
One of these cooperatives is the indigenous farmers in Sibulan that are exporting the “bongolan” type of bananas to Japan.
“We are establishing this packing houses for the small farmers because they are the ones who cannot cope with the high-export quality,” Provido said.
“Aside from infrastructure, we are also providing technical assistance such as observance of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to strengthen the quality control of banana produce,” she said.
Philippine bananas in the export market include the Cavendish type for the fresh market and the saba/carbada for chip-making and staple.
The DA is also looking at other local alternative markets to cope up with some industry setbacks. One is the agreement with the Department of Education (DepED) for the supply of banana in the school’s feeding program which is expected to require 240 million boxes of bananas in a year.
Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics showed that in 2011 the Davao Region attained the highest production with 3.855 million metric tons (MMT) followed by Northern Mindanao with 1.726 MMT and Soccsksargen with 1.095 MMT.
“After the vigorous implementation of infrastructures, the GAP training, and the continual search for other potential export markets, we are confident that we will regain from the setbacks we have had,” Provido said.