THE research on identifying a Panama disease-resistant banana variety is still ongoing by the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), an official said.
PBGEA President Stephen Antig said on Friday, March 3, that based on the latest data from the Department of Agriculture (DA), around 15,000 hectares (has.) of banana plantations are already affected by the Panama disease in Mindanao alone.
"Once the plantation had been affected by the Panama disease, the farmers can no longer plant the same variety, thus, a need to develop a new variety resistant of this disease," Antig added.
According to Antig, there had been several varieties that were developed but are still on observation stages.
"We continue to test if these are indeed the varieties we need. Research is a very long process, that's why it is also very expensive. We should not stop in identifying these varieties," Antig said, adding that the process they are using is natural selection and not genetic engineering.
Antig said genetic engineering is a concept not yet widely accepted in the banana industry and market. He hopes that through natural selection method, researchers will still be successful in identifying and developing a new variety.
With around 96 percent of the total banana production in the Philippines coming from Mindanao, he estimated that because of this Panama disease affecting banana plantations in Mindanao, the industry loses around 55.5 million boxes or some US$333 million. Each box contains 13 kilograms of bananas.
Antig said some of the new varieties were already planted in the affected areas but the success of these plantations has yet to be determined.