Banana growers in the Davao Region are alarmed over the onset of the dreaded Panama Disease, which has already affected several banana plantations.
“It is an industry killer and for Mindanao, an economy killer,” Alex Valoria, president of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), said of the destructive fungal plant disease.
The fungus, which already attacked several plantations across the region, has been identified as the recent strain Tropical Race 4. Presently, it has no cure and cannot be controlled by fungicide.
Stephen Antig, PBGEA executive-director, said the disease was spotted in Calinan in Davao City about three years ago.
It has spread to banana plantations in Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur.
The fungus is carried by humans, dogs, cats, pigs and car tires. Rainwater can also carry the fungus thus, it can spread easily from upland farms to lowland plantations.
Panama Disease destroyed the Malaysian banana industry three years ago.
In Mindanao, there are about 245,000 hectares planted to bananas with 79,300 hectares devoted to export-quality Cavendish varieties.