• Exporters ask DA for help vs banana disease

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    A LOCAL banana industry lobby has appealed to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to help allay fears on the impact of the Mokillo disease, a minor disease affecting Musa species like bananas and plantains, on the country’s billion-peso banana export business.

    The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) also asked the DA to include Mokillo in its priority research areas.

    PBGEA’s appeal came in the face of the perceived threat of Mokillo, or finger tip rot, which also affects the heavily traded Cavendish banana cultivars. Mokillo is caused by aerobic bacteria, a plant pathogen, and does not pose any risk to human health, according to the PBGEA.

    Stephen Antig, PBGEA executive director, said that to sustain growth, there has to be collaboration among the pillars of effective participatory governance.

    Moreover, being an aerobic bacterium, Mokillo cannot survive to infect humans when ingested. This banana disease does not have any significant economic implications to both backyard and commercial banana plantations. Mokillo rarely infects bananas and if it does it is only during the wet season, the group said.

    PBGEA found that the best way to control Mokillo is through decontamination of cutting tools and farm equipment using a third level disinfectant.

    “Removal of infected fingers is also being strictly implemented during processing in the packing houses of all PBGEA members,” Antig added.

    The Philippines is the second largest banana exporter in the world.

    Top dollar earner
    The country has been recognized as the most efficient producer of quality bananas with a high yield of 6.5 metric tons per hectare per year, contributing over $1 billion in revenue and making the banana industry a consistent top dollar earner and a generous income generator for farmers.

    According to the 2014 Report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), banana remains the country’s major agricultural export, second only to coconut oil, accounting for 15-18 percent of revenue of the top 10 agricultural exports.

    At present, Philippine fresh bananas are exported to Japan, the Gulf countries – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain — China, South Korea, Iran, Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia, New Zealand, the United States (specifically in San Diego), Mongolia, Ukraine, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and, in neighboring Asean countries such as Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. There are also niche markets in Europe.

    To ensure that Philippine bananas are of utmost quality and safety, Antig said that PBGEA is continuously putting in place measures to safeguard the superiority of produce and adopts accepted agricultural practice by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

    “Each member company is implementing comprehensive biosecurity measures in their respective plantations,” Antig said.

    Biosecurity is defined as a set of preventive measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases in crops and livestock, quarantined pests, invasive alien species, and living modified organisms.

    “The banana production and exporting industry continues to see vast growth and success as PBGEA has always been proactive in battling constant challenges from all fronts and has always been willing to work with the government to ensure the quality of their bananas,” the executive added.

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