AGRICULTURAL exports from Davao Region, particularly the dollar earning cavendish banana, have continued to boost economic growth despite the global financial crisis last year.

This was the assessment made by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) in its briefing on the 2009 economic performance of the region.

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"Aerial spraying will be a major challenge for the region, it will have its repercussions on our economic growth," Ma. Lourdes Lim, Neda-Davao Region director, said during the briefing.

The unresolved issue of aerial spraying is the single largest threat to the thriving economy of Southern Mindanao, based on the assessment of one of the country's largest agricultural conglomerates, the Anflo Management and Investment Corporation (Anflocor).

In an interview with Sun.Star Davao, Anflocor president Alex Valoria said the issues raised against the banana industry, particularly on the use of aerial spraying as an agricultural method, is a farce.

Agriculture, alongside with information communication technology, mining, and tourism, is the expected key driver of the region’s economy for this year.

"We are proposing that the government agencies do not take any drastic actions against aerial spraying. Instead a more comprehensive study should be undertaken," Lim said.

The same sentiment was expressed by Anflocor.

"Here, we have an industry where the Filipinos have proven to the world that they are the best in doing, yet we are caught up in an issue that has no basis," Valoria said.

Its major plantation, the Tagum Agricultural Development Copmany Inc., is located in Barangay Antonio O. Floirendo in Panabo City. The same barangay has been praised by the Department of Health as the most livable barangay in the country due to the comprehensive distribution of basic services to the people.

"We prize our people, they are our best assets. The company would have not survived without its people and I don’t think that the people will support the company if it has been hazardous for them," Valoria said. "The people (workers) know the truth."