THE export banana industry in Davao Region may lose around seven to 15 percent of their harvest if El Niño occurs this year, according to the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) on Monday, January 23.

PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig explained that cavendish banana trees get stressed during El Niño because of the lack or limited supply of water which can reduce the volume of bananas harvested.

The most affected are the small-time cavendish farmers since they are usually the ones without the proper irrigation system but Antig said even big farms with irrigation systems in place lose water since water sources can dry up.

During these times, the industry could lose around 20 million boxes out of the usual 160 million boxes based on the 2022 harvest of PBGEA.

"We have to determine kailan magsisimula at matatapos ang El Niño, kung darating man (when it will start and end, if it comes). Kasi kung hindi, it's difficult to determine ano ang magiging huge impact sa banana plantation (Because if not, it’s difficult to determine what would be its huge impact to the banana plantation),” Antig told SunStar Davao in an interview.

The executive director added that an El Niño event is not severe if it does not last longer than three to four months. If it does, there is a possibility for the banana trees to die.

"Kung hindi naman masyado matagal, makaka-survive ang banana kaya lang maliliit ang bunga (If won’t last long, the bananas can still survive but the fruit would be small in size). Dahil maliit ang bunga, ang rejection mo, mas mataas (If it’s small, it would be rejected for export)," he said.

To counter the potential problems if El Niño happens, farmers will resort to alternatives to water their plantation like manually harvesting water from other places.

They also check their irrigation systems and the volume of their water sources, and in some cases, conduct cloud seeding if an impending El Niño is confirmed by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa). ICM