Banana disease haunts Bukidnon backyard growers

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/17 January) The locally-initiated banana task force led by the Provincial Agriculture Office found that only 37 hectares in large banana plantations were infected by the Fusarium wilt commonly known as Panama fungal disease in Bukidnon, Engr. Alson Quimba, provincial agriculturist said.

In his report to the provincial board last month, Quimba said the disease was observed in the province but he added that the plantations were able to control it with the use of the right management practices.

He said this is “negligible and does not bother the big plantations”.

“This is not enough reason for them to opt to lay-off workers or shut down,” he added.

He said the problem remains among back yard banana growers, with an estimated total area of only 100 hectares out of the 2,442 hectares suspected to be infected last year.

Quimba said Tuesday this is one reason Bukidnon cannot be declared Panama disease-free yet.

The report also cited that the Agrinanas Development Co. Inc.(ADCI) of the Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc. condemned and abandoned about 175 hectares of banana plantation.


But Quimba said they could not include it among those with Fusarium wilt because when they went to the area it was already burned.

“We couldn’t confirm it anymore,” he added.

The fact finding team concluded that there is a need to educate the small banana growers. They found out that that the small growers do not apply disease control measures.

Among their recommendation is for local governments to pass laws governing control measures of banana growers. They cited that some dumped infected plants in irrigation canals, which passed the infection.

The team also recommended for the local government unit and the company to strictly implement foot bath and wheel baths in plantation areas. They also recommended regular monitoring and information drive.


The Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) has composed a fact-finding team to investigate reports that a fungal disease has infected about a thousand hectares of banana plantations in the province.

Quimba said earlier representatives from the PAO, the Department of Agriculture’s Regional Banana Task Force, and the Central Mindanao University will compose the locally-initiated task force. The team, which includes a team of pathologists or experts of plant diseases, will conduct inspections in the banana plantations on November 8 to 10, 2011.

He added that the subjects for the fact-finding team are the plantations of Dole Philippines, Agrinanas Development Co., Inc. (ADCI), Mt. Kitanglad Agri-Ventures, Inc., and Manupali Agri-Development Corp.

Quimba said the task force was in response to a resolution passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in September 2011 urging him to verify media reports about the disease.

Board member Jay Albarece (1st district), who authored the resolution, urged Quimba to verify an ABS-CBN report quoting the Davao-based Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) that a fungus called Fusarium oxysporum may have found its way to Bukidnon.

Albarece noted in his resolution that the fungus, also called Panama disease, is resistant to fungicide.

He said it could be the same fungus that contaminated some plantations in Compostela Valley and most recently in Santo Tomas in Davao del Norte.

Bukidnon has around 20,000 to 25,000 hectares of land planted to banana, he said.

Albarece cited that the province hosts a number of highland banana plantations, which employ thousands of regular employees.

“The outbreak of dreaded disease in its (Bukidnon) fertile plateaus is feared to bring about unthinkable adverse economic and social repercussions to the entire province and its people,” he said.

“If the reports of the disease’s presence in the province are true,the spread of the banana ailment should be immediately controlled and contained to prevent the same from spreading to the unaffected banana plantations in the province,” he added.

But Albarace said that if the reports were false, then Bukidnon must immediately declare it is “Panama disease-free.”

He said that though there are environmental issues related to the presence of banana plantations in Bukidnon, the province is not ready to face an employment crisis if the industry players decide to stop operations owing to the alleged existence of the disease.(Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)


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