AS THE banana industry is still recovering from the damage brought by devastating typhoons, calamities and crop diseases, an official from the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport) appealed to the government to grant industry players in Mindanao an exemption from paying local property taxes.

Philexport Davao president Ferdinand Marañon told reporters Friday at the sidelines of the inauguration of the Therma South, Inc. 300-megawatt power plant in Binugao, Toril that moratorium or tax holiday for all sort of taxes including land taxes will be of big help in the rehabilitation process of the industry.

A tax holiday is a temporary reduction or elimination of a tax granted by the government as incentives for business investment.

“Both big and small players in the industry are confronted with numerous problems and now another issue is emerging, the plan of some local government units (LGUs) to put additional taxes on top of the existing taxes even on the banana farms planted with export Cavendish bananas, which is detrimental to the interest of business,” he said adding that banana is one of the major concerns of the export industry.

Exporters and banana growers have called to the government to inhibit LGUS from imposing more taxes.

Some of the LGUs that proposed additional taxes are Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte.

“We would like to ask the government I they can inhibit the LGU from imposing more taxes, like in ComVal, del Norte, Oriental, we want taxes’ holiday, all sort of taxes while we are still in the process of rehabilitating affected areas,” Marañon said.

Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig, for his part bewailed the plant quarantine fees that government has once again increased “amid the various threats the growers have to contend with.”

"The recent increase in plant quarantine fees should be rolled back and tariff should be reduced. In this way will the industry can survive," Antig earlier said.

Antig also cited that added financial obligations like wharfage dues and the proposed environmental users tax will only add to the sufferings of the people in the sector.

On the pressing issues of banana diseases, Maranon underscored that banana industry players need help in propagating new disease-resistant variety.

“We are presently in the process of coming up with a disease-resistant variety of banana but it is very costly, we need a support, full support from the government in terms of funding,” Maranon said.

Plagued with problems on diseases like Fusarium wilt and Panama disease, long dry spell affecting severely more than 6,000 hectares of banana plantations, Maranon added that industry players see the need to bring down the production cost to remain competitive and continue to be efficient and effective in their farming systems.

“When we lower down our production cost, we really need the government support so they can supply us new planting materials, if possible at no cost to the farmers, because we have to rehabilitate the farms that are already affected by these diseases,” he said.

Maranon said that, in Mindanao at least P20,000 to 30,000 of government fund per hectare is needed or P1.3 billion in total to accommodate a total of 42,316.41 hectares planted with bananas in the island.

According to PBGEA, as of December 2015, total land area planted with banana is at 42,316.41 hectares. Of the figure, 28,680.81 has. of which is in Davao Region.

Meanwhile, Philexport, PBGEA, Mindanao Banana Farmers and Exporters Association are set to stage National Banana Congress slated on April 1 and 2, 2016 at the SMX Convention Center. The congress is seen to gather some 1,000 delegates all over the country to discuss issues and concerns affecting the banana industry.