Banana, cacao, coconut banner the agriculture sector in 2017 despite challenges

Banana, cacao, coconut banner agri sector despite challenges

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Banana, cacao, coconut banner agri sector despite challenges

Monday, January 01, 2018

DAVAO Region’s top agricultural export commodities remain to be bananas, coconuts, and the by-products of both of them.

In 2017, the two industries were faced with challenges and successes which prove that even though the industries is on currently on the top, it continues to need help and attention both from the government and the private institutions.

When Typhoon Pablo hit select parts of Davao Region in 2012, it did not only cause physical damages in the banana plantations of the region. Its damages and effect went to as far as five years after when the Mindanao Banana Farmers and Exporters Association (MBFEA) went to Russia to talk with potential banana importers and to be able to revive the export industry of banana in Russia.

Before the typhoon hit the region and decrease its huge capacity for export, Russia imports their Cavendish bananas from the Philippines. Now, after five year-hiatus after the typhoon, Ecuador’s banana export market to Russia has continued to flourish leaving behind the Philippines.

MBFEA president Richard Mark delos Reyes said although Russian market were frustrated of the Philippines’ temporary stop of massive export, MBFEA is still determined to being back on the game and will not give up on penetrating the export market of Russia once more.

As things with the banana industry seemed a little challenging this year, a 3-cm wire was found inside a banana in Kawasaki City, Japan imported from the Philippines. Pilipino Bananan Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig referred to this as “economic sabotage” and that whoever deliberately did this had the cause of bringing down the banana industry of the country.

Aside from this, members of lawless groups had been reported to burn down manufacturing plants and extort money from businessmen in Mindanao including the banana players.

Because of these events that call for tighter security measures, PBGEA has partnered with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to create and install a special Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) 2 in the peripheries of some of the plantations in Mindanao with the hope that it will help lessen security-related issues of the industry.

At present, the project is still on its finalization stages while PBGEA waits for the recruitment and deployment of the special Cafgu 2 to be done by AFP.

The virgin coconut oil (VCO) demand for export has continued to increase especially in countries like Netherlands, the United States, Italy, Japan, and Korea. This is primarily because of their priority over healthy ingredients to be used for the cosmetic line and other food processes.

“Countries in Europe have an aggressive shift of using coconut oil, not only in cooking but also as spreads. Since 2016, Europe’s demand for coconut oil had increased due to the lauric acid component of coconut oil, which could not be found in any other oil products like palm oil and canola,” said Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) board member Roque Quimpan in an earlier interview.

Because of this increasing demand of VCO and other by-product of coconut, Quimpan said there is a need to plant 7 million coconut trees nationwide for 5 years to compensate for the 35 million coconut tree losses caused by Cocolisap and typhoon Pablo in 2012.

As the coconut and the banana industries continue to fight against natural and man-made challenges, they are also strengthening their research and development to come up with new species which have higher tolerance of viruses thus causing less damages and losses for the industry.

Both the industry’s representative continue to ask for assistance from the government and other concerned agencies believing that even if their industry is currently on the top in terms of exporting, if not given proper attention, it might perish in no time.

The chocolate and the cacao industry of Davao City has also started to carve its name for everyone in the country and even abroad to notice.

A French and a Japanese firm had earlier expressed interest in importing fresh cacao beans from Davao City. This was after Puentespina Farms’ raw cacao beans gain international recognition in France. They are one of the 50 Best Bean Samples awarded worldwide after a total of 166 cacao beans from 40 countries were evaluated worldwide.

Puentespina Farms grow Trinitario clones, a cross breed of Criollo and Forastero varieties specifically and predominantly the UF 18, BR 25, and PBC 123. These beans are what the farm used to produce their award-winning chocolates that had acquired recognition and attention from different parts of the world.

On October of this year, the Cacao City was opened at the Pasalubong center, Palma Gil St., Davao city. This is part of the City Agriculturist Office’s bid to make the city the chocolate capital of the Philippines.

The Cacao City houses 15 cacao players in Davao City producing products with raw ingredients that are certified to be really from Davao City.

The Philippine Cacao Industry Development Countil (PCIDC) is currently waiting for the endorsement and declaration from appropriate government agency after the Regional Development Council (RDC) Davao approved their proposal of making the city the chocolate and cacao capital of the country.

According to PCIDC president Valente Turtur this is just rightly so as Davao City produces about 50 percent of the production of the country.

Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on January 01, 2018.

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