Devastating banana disease alarms DA

February 15, 2020

Agriculture Secretary William Dar has called on all banana growers and exporters, local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders to forge a stronger and more sustainable collaboration to fight the Panama disease plaguing the banana industry.

Dar made the call even as he recently directed the heads of High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP), Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to work and craft with industry players a banana export roadmap, and a strategy on how to effectively control Panama disease or Fusarium wilt.

The decade-old Panama  disease continuously infest banana farms in Mindanao.

The disease is caused by the soil-borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum that enters the plant’s roots, and colonizes the xylem vessels, blocking the flow of water and nutrients. Thus, the plant wilts and dies.

“We will strongly collaborate with all banana farmers, big and small, and local chief executives to find a long-term and sustainable solution to solve the Panama disease, and at the same time increase the exports of fresh bananas and other by-products,” Dar said.

“We are tapping the services of noted Filipino banana expert, Dr. Agustin Molina, formerly of Bioversity International, for these efforts,” he added.

Meanwhile,  Dr. Molina said  some of the major issues confronting the industry are lack of viable lands, impact of climate change, shift in market conditions, and emergence of new competitors.

Molina added that despite the damage due to Panama disease, mild drought, and production decline, the value of banana exports even expanded due to better prices and higher quality of Philippine bananas.

“The effect of the mild drought experienced in 2019 is still being felt in the early months of 2020, “ Molina said.

In 2015, about 15,000 hectares out of 84,000 hectares planted  to Cavendish banana were affected by Panama disease.

Dar, on the other hand, said  they  are awaiting the results of geo-mapping being conducted by the DA-RFO 11 to validate the extent of infestation in Davao del Norte.

“We are glad that several major growers are planting disease-resistant varieties and so the impact is minimal on them, while the small and independent farmers feel the brunt of Fusarium wilt,” Dar  added.

However, Dar said  despite the infestation of the disease, fresh banana remains as the country’s major farm export.

He said  based on the records of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the commodity earned for the country US$1.77 billion, from January to November 2019, making it the top farm export item, and US$1.38 billion in 2018.