A BANANA farmer in Cotabato prepares his harvest for delivery. — DAR.GOV.PH 

BANANA growers and other industry stakeholders in the southern province of Cotabato are preparing to set up a banana flour processing plant, to be located at an agro-industrial park in the town of Mlang.   

In a gathering organized by the provincial agriculturist office last week, producers, traders and processors discussed the requirements of a sustainable flour plant operation and the estimated annual production of local farms.   

Governor Emmylou “Lala” T. Mendoza said the meeting also tackled the challenges faced by banana farmers.   

Through this meeting, focus can be given on the problems of the industry to ensure the success of the banana flour processing plant in the province. The goal is to protect the welfare of each farmer and increase their income,she said in Filipino.   

Ms. Mendoza also said the processing plant is crucial to the success of the Cotabato Agro-Industrial Park.   

In 2021, a P318.5-million fund was allocated by the provincial government for the development of the agro-industrial park and delivery of various agricultural services.   

Cotabato, also referred to by its old name North Cotabato, is pursuing an agri-based economic growth with four priority commodities, namely: rubber, oil-palm, coconut, and banana.     

Data from the local governments site show the province annually produces a combined 94 metric tons (MT) of different banana varieties, including 40 MT of Cavendish, 30 MT of Cardava, and 24 MT of Lakatan.   

About 13,756 hectares are planted with banana bearing trees, with farms operated by the countrys major exporter as well as smallholders.   

For other agricultural sectors, Ms. Mendoza said the Provincial Agricultural and Fishery Council (PAFC) is also preparing to pass a resolution requesting the Department of Public Work and Highways to allow the construction of quarantine facilities at the provinces entry points to protect farms and livestocks from diseases.    

Cotabato is a landlocked province in central Mindanao. It shares borders with the provinces of Bukidnon, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur, and Davao City. Maya M. Padillo