‘Aerial spraying delays to cut banana output’


Local banana growers and exporters sought the government’s help to fast-track the renewal of the licenses of their pilots and aircraft so they can resume aerial spraying in their plantations to avert billions of pesos in losses.

In a letter to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) raised concerns about the delays in the renewal of licenses of the group’s pilots and the release of the Certificates of Airworthiness for their aircraft. It was addressed to CAAP Director General Captain Jim C. Sydiongco.

PBGEA said their pilots and aircraft have remained grounded, hampering operations in banana plantations as they cannot conduct aerial spraying of pesticides to prevent the spread of diseases.

The group said this could lead to production losses as the absence of pesticide would result in a lower banana bunch weight.

“Failure to spray for one cycle would mean that at least one leaf will be unprotected and without fungicide coverage [for Cavendish banana, one leaf emerge every week before the coming of the bud or ‘puso’],” according to the letter dated October 20, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror.

“The loss of one leaf due to Sigatoka [a banana disease] especially before shooting will be critical since this is the stage when the fruit starts to develop. Study shows that losing one leaf due to Sigatoka will result in a reduction of 0.57 kgs of the potential bunch weight at harvest assuming there will be production.”

Growers and exporters could lose as much as $29.832 million or P1.491 billion if the licenses and the certification will not be renewed immediately. The group noted that there are about 44,000 hectares of corporate banana farms in Mindanao.

The estimated potential losses represent 2 percent of the banana industry’s export receipts last year, when the value of shipments reached $1.644 billion, based on BusinessMirror’s computation using latest government data.

“In connection to the above and to avoid another pandemic to the already ailing banana industry, we are earnestly requesting that temporary licenses and certificates to operate be granted,” the group said.

The letter was also sent by the group to various Cabinet secretaries including Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez, and Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade.

PBGEA Executive Director Stephen A. Antig told the BusinessMirror that CAAP has not yet responded.

The country’s banana output last year declined slightly to 9.056 million metric tons (MMT) from 9.157 MMT recorded in 2019 due to spread of diseases, such as Fusarium wilt.

Despite a 14.38-percent contraction in shipments, the Philippines remained as the world’s top exporter of bananas for the third consecutive year in 2020. The country exported 3.725 MMT of bananas last year.

Trade map data of the International Trade Centre analyzed by the BusinessMirror showed that the Philippines was able to secure its spot in the global banana market despite a double-digit decline in shipments caused by anemic production and logistical problems.

Image courtesy of BusinessMirror file photo

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