Banana research institute to help banana farmers combat fungal infestation

A lawmaker is seeking the establishment of a banana research institute
to address concerns of banana farmers like the outbreak of a virulent
fungus that can bring havoc to the $720-million banana industry in the
country.

Rep. Antonio Lagdameo Jr. (2nd District, Davao del Norte), author of
House Bill 5478, expressed concern over the recurrence of the
uncontrollable spread of Panama disease, also known as fusarium wilt,
a dreaded fungus that has already infested several banana plantations
in Southern Mindanao.

“Panama disease has been dormant for about 50 years, but a virulent
strain has now reappeared in plantations in the Philippines, having
spread from Australia to countries in Southeast Asia and Taiwan,”
Lagdameo said.

The bill seeks the creation of the National Banana Research Center in
the Philippines that will take scientific research and analysis to
further develop the banana industry.

Lagdameo urged the government to immediately take action to arrest the
spread of fungal infestation as the livelihoods of thousands of banana
farmers in the country are at stake.

Lagdameo further explained that the government stands to lose millions
of pesos in taxes and fees if the banana industry suffers a slump in
production.

“The banana industry is a very important source of income, employment
and export earnings in the Philippines. The country’s banana industry
is worth $720 million a year, provides employment to 240,000 workers
and contributes P830 million in taxes to local government units,” he
said.

Under the bill, the National Banana Research Center shall be
responsible to integrate, collate and support studies on the banana
industry as well as intensify research that may result in developing
productive, high yielding good varieties of banana.

The center is also mandated to conduct comprehensive studies and
scientific approaches to sustainable banana farming and enhance
research on problems associated with the prevention of diseases that
infest banana farms in order to lessen risks to health and the
environment, among others.

Lagdameo said putting up a banana research institute will address the
vital issues on food security and stability of the banana industry.

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