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Panama disease-resistant bananas spark buyer complaints

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DAVAO CITY — Small banana growers have received complaints from buyers of some of their harvest from the Giant Cavendish Tissue Culture Variant 218 (GCTCV 218), which is resistant to the Panama disease.

Stephen A. Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), said the Davao regional office of the Department of Agriculture called a meeting early this month to discuss the matter, which could impact pricing.

The buyers, according to the small growers, were complaining about a difference in taste and shape compared with previous Cavendish exports.

Mr. Antig said what they primarily discussed during the meeting was how to address the “question of acceptability to the market.”

He said growers of the new variant must come up with marketing strategies to prevent buyers from using the differences in the banana produce to bargain for lower prices.

Buyers, he pointed out, usually come up with “excuses” whenever there is a glut in production so they could demand cheaper prices.

Mr. Antig said they also advised small growers to push for longer marketing contracts with their buyers.

“Negotiate for a longer contract to prevent them (buyers) from coming up with excuses,” he said.

The official of PBGEA, which is composed of the banana industry’s big planters, said their own members cautioned their clients on the expected differences before exporting the produce from the new variants.

Aside from GCTCV 218, another variant resistant to fusarium wilt that was developed is known as GCTCV 219.

Most small growers opted to propagate the 218 variety because of its highly resistant characteristics.

Mr. Antig said the industry continues to conduct research on how to improve these new varieties.

In March, Tagum Agricultural Development Company Inc. (TADECO), the country’s biggest banana grower and exporter, launched a modern laboratory, which has a unit for banana tissue culture.

TADECO President Anthony Alexander N. Valoria said during the launch that the facility is intended to help the whole banana industry address diseases like Panama disease to ensure that the country maintains its competitiveness in the global market. — Carmelito Q. Francisco