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Philippines: Banana industry on edge over effects of climate change

Climate change could have a significant impact on the region’s banana production this year.

Anthony B. Sasin, spokesperson of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), said that the weather has a 50% stake on a banana grower’s production target.

The banana industry is regarded as the backbone of agribusiness in the Davao Region, providing direct employment to about 100,000 people and contributing at least $400 million to the country’s export receipts annually.

Mr. Sasin told BusinessWorld that climate change took its toll on production last year based on the association’s production estimates.

The PBGEA report showed that during the first 11 months of the year, production of members last year went down to 1.753 million metric tons from 1.828 million metric tons during the same period last year.

The same report pointed out that an increase in production during the year compared with the same period in 2007 was experienced in only five months.

From less than 30,000 hectares of farms 10 years ago, however, PBGEA members now control an area approaching 50,000 hectares, industry sources said.

Fear of the adverse effects of climate change and the global crisis have forced banana companies to be more cautious in their expansion projects.

Cautious spending

Alex V. Buenaventura, president of One Network Bank, shares Mr. Sasin’s sentiment. Mr. Buenaventura, whose bank runs a supervised financing for banana farming, said that some growers who are clients of his bank have been cautiously expanding their farms because of fear that projected yield might not be met due to weather anomalies..

Last year, the bank released about P569 million compared with P477 million in 2007, or a 19% increase.

This year, Mr. Buenaventura said, the bank will practice more caution in its lending to banana growers.

Mr. Sasin talked about Anflo Management and Investment Corp., which used to run several banana farms.

Two years ago, the company had to pull out its investments in Agusan del Sur after heavy rains hit the plantation site. He estimated the company had lost about P1 billion when it finally abandoned its farms in 2007.

Mr. Sasin pointed out that when Anflo, where he sits as executive vice-president, started its due diligence study of the Agusan del Sur farms, the amount of rainfall was just enough for banana growing.

When the company started operating the farms, however, the rains had become so frequent that production targets were not met.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has also taken note of the seeming changes in the weather.

Gerry S. Pedrico, chief of the agency in the Davao Region, pointed out that based on the rain pattern, the rainy season has become longer compared with previous years.

"In [the past], our rainy days were evenly distributed making our farms good for any crop. Right now, changes have been slowly taking place," he said, explaining that this has caused problems in farming.

He cited as an example last year when lanzones trees in farms in the city failed to bear fruit because of the extended rainy season. Ironically, this occured during the Kadayawan sa Dabaw, a festival held to celebrate a bountiful harvest.


Publication date: 2/12/2009


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