IN A bid to help improve the banana industry in Davao Region, the Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (Tadeco), a subsidiary of the Anflo Group of Companies, launched its Agro-Technology Outreach Program Monday, March 12.
Alexander Valoria, Anflo president and chief executive officer, said during the launching of the program that the program makes world class laboratory services that are critical for agricultural operations available to banana farmers.
"It is the culmination of the hard work of tadeco’s research team led by Dr. Benny M. Corcolon, the company’s investment of over P100 million, and even a grant from the Dutch government through their Promo Banana Project," Valoria said.
There are two sites for the program -- the receiving area in Magsaysay, Carmen, Davao del Norte and the laboratory at Tadeco in Panabo City.
"To be able to check on soil nutrient status, diagnosis of diseases through conventional and molecular approaches...quickly and here in Davao del Norte will be a huge advantage for the banana industry," Valoria said.
The program offers services on entomology nematology, plant pathology, tissue culture, and chemistry laboratory.
Valoria also said through the program, they will offer services that will help fight fusarium wilt, also known as the Panama Disease.
"We will be selling tissue cultured planting material that is fusarium wilt tolerant as well as selling trichoderma packs that we ourselves use extensively and consider integral to our program against fusarium wilt," Valoria said.
Corcolon, Tadeco vice president for research, information, and compliance division, said through the program they hope to bring their laboratory services closer to smaller banana farmers and exporters.
He said they are also open to other banana farmers and exporters who do not have a laboratory.
Corcolon said interested banana farmers and exporters may bring their samples to the receiving area.
He also said the cost of their services is much lower than other laboratories offering similar services.
Valoria said this is part of their efforts to help improve and restore the banana industry in the region.
It can be noted that despite being one of the biggest sector in the country's agriculture industry, the banana sector has been plagued with diseases, threatened by climate change, and faces stiff competition from bananas coming from Latin America. This resulted to lower exports in the past couple of years.
"From 2011 to 2016, annual fresh banana exports of the Philippines dropped by 50 million boxes. In the same time frame, annual banana exports from Central and South America increased by 137 million boxes," Valoria said.
To be able to address these challenges there is a need for the banana industry to produce more banana exports.
"We need to regain the ground that we lost in our Asian markets and even threaten their own US and European markets with Philippine bananas. These laboratory services and products will be integral to the success of those objectives," Valoria said.
Doctor Evelyn Magno, executive director of the Mindanao Banana Farmers and Exporters Association, a small group of banana farmers and exporters, said the program is a welcome development in the industry especially that most small banana farmers and exporters do not have access to proper laboratory services.