With the United States imposing import ban on some banana plant parts coming from the Philippines, the National Banner Program Committee (NBPC) on High Value Crops-Fruits and Vegetables (HVC-FV) deliberated on Panama Disease control and prevention on June 24, 2021.
The Panama Disease, also known as Fusarium wilt, is caused by a fungus that lives in soil. It travels up the stem of the banana plant and blocks the tissues that carry water and nutrients, thus killing the plant. The fungus can be easily spread by movement of infected plants and contaminated soil and water.
Although Panama Disease is not harmful to humans, it is considered destructive to the majority of banana varieties including Cavendish, the most common one in the market.
According to an article in Business World Online, the US saw this as a serious threat to its agriculture, thus restricting the importation of rooted plants, rooted and unrooted cuttings, and roots from countries with known Panama Disease occurrence, which included the Philippines. The import ban, effective May 12, does not apply to seeds, leaves, flowers, and fruits.
In response to the dropping values of banana export and escalating hectares of Fusarium-wilt-infected plantations, the Department of Agriculture (DA) allocated around PhP260 million in 2020 to support the rehabilitation of banana farms and develop disease-resistant varieties.
These efforts were discussed and supported during the 2nd quarter meeting of the NBPC on HVC-FV, with the key recommendations of the body to consider production of other banana varieties (i.e. Cardava) and exploration of crop biotechnology to create new variants with resistance to pathogens.
It was noted that production of Cardava bananas is already part of DA’s High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) under the Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II). Meanwhile, data on acceptability of genetically-modified bananas was unknown, thus needing further review for better decision-making of initiatives.
Other pressing matters tackled in the meeting include:
- climate outlook from July to December 2021 to guide stakeholders in planting and harvesting;
- insurance programs offered by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), particularly oil palm insurance policy, fruit drop policy and tree mortality policy;
- development of the commodity industry roadmaps, with target completion on the last week of September 2021;
- Urban Agriculture and Gulayan Projects, with the establishment of school gardens and community gardens;
- request for the assistance of the Agricultural and Fishery Youthpreneur Council (AFYC) in the implementation of Gulayan sa Paaralan;
- adoption of the resolution recommending to the DA Secretary, the inclusion of Urban Agriculture as a regular agenda in the meetings of the Committee, and the membership of the National Program Director for Urban Agriculture Program to the NBPC on HVC-FV;
- lined-up activities for the 2021 International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV), with PCAF as designated promoter of the event; and
- proposed National Consultation/Summit on Fruits and Vegetables by last quarter of 2021.| JCL