R&D PROJECT ON TO HELP SAVE COLLAPSING BANANA INDUSTRY

MANILA,
July 1, 2004  (STAR) Many may not know or realize it, but the smallholder subsector of the country’s banana industry is in near collapse.

For some time now, diseases such as banana bunchy top virus (BBTV), Fusarium wilt, and "Sigatoka" have been devastating banana stands of small-scale farmers.

For instance, as reported by PCARRD, the spread of these diseases in the Ilocos Region has reached an "epidemic" proportion.

Smallhold farmers manage 90 percent of the country’s banana plantations. In terms of production technology, they are below par compared with those of other Asian countries.

The Philippines is the only banana exporter in Asia, said Dr. Agustin B. Molina, regional coordinator of the Los Baños-based International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain-Asia and the Pacific (INIBAP-AP).

Most of the bananas exported to other countries are produced in plantations in Mindanao, covering 10 percent of the total production area. Multinational companies now dominate the local banana industry.

To help the industry recover from the devastation wrought by banana diseases, the "Banana Research, Development, and Extension Collaborative Project in Luzon Areas," started last year, has been expanded.

Recently, PCARRD, INIBAP-AP, and seven state colleges and universities (SCUs) signed a memorandum of agreement to continue the R&D project.

The SCUs are Ilocos Sur Polytechnic State College (ISPSC), Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU, La Union), Cavite State University (CavSU), Quirino State College (QSC), Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC), Mindoro State College of Agriculture (MSCA), and Southern Luzon Polytechnic College (SLPC).

The project aims to rehabilitate the local banana industry from diseases by evaluating new technologies for farmers’ adoption under the conditions in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Quirino, Pampanga, Cavite, Quezon, and Mindoro.

These technologies include the use of tissue-cultured plantlets of introduced banana cultivars, superior local varieties, and appropriate production systems.

INIBAP-AP has also offered to local farmers improved, high-yielding varieties that have known resistance to certain diseases, according to Dr. Molina. – RAF


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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