THERE is also a high export demand for saba cardava bananas, said Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig.
Philippine banana exports are currently limited to fresh Cavendish bananas. The country also exports value-added banana by-products such as banana chips to countries like Japan, Korea, and China as well as some countries in the Middle East.
Antig said most of their member-exporters opt to venture into Cavendish bananas because of its bigger, more established export market. However, Antig said the banana chips and other value-adding products that is being exported to other countries are actually made from Saba Cardava and not Cavendish bananas.
He also said most of the big banana players and farmers are into Cavendish bananas while smaller farmers are the ones into the saba cardava varieties.
“This is primarily because saba cardava can easily grow even without thorough care and attention. But of course, there is a need to also improve this industry. The small farmers planting saba cardava need help and assistance because the demand for this variety is also big,” Antig told Sunstar Davao.
Nationwide, there are about 400,000 hectares of banana plantations and only about 87,000 hectares of this are planted with Cavendish bananas. The rest are planted with native or plantain bananas including saba cardava.
Despite this number, Cavendish bananas still have higher productivity compared to other banana varieties available in the country. He said this is because the private sectors including the banana exporters are very keen on developing and investing in this variety. This, he said, should also be done with the saba cardava variety as well.
Other neighboring Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries have earlier seen this export opportunity for saba cardava such as Thailand which had already started exporting and expanding their saba cardava plantations.
“They have started exporting raw saba cardava. The volume is increasing. I think their advantage really is that their banana players are heavily supported by their government. That’s why,” said Antig.
Antig encouraged small banana farmers who are primarily into saba cardava to form an association and to “graduate from the level of solely being farmers and become entrepreneurs as well.”
He shared that in the United States, banana chips are actually one of the main ingredients used to formulate some of their breakfast cereals. This, among many things, makes saba cardava have a big potential in the export market. He added the demand of banana chips in the United States is actually much bigger than its demand for fresh Cavendish bananas.