International Banana Symposium 2014

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Introduction
The International Banana Symposium, in parallel with the Davao Trade Expo (DATE), was held on 19-
22 November 2014 at the SMX Convention Centre, SM Lanang Premier, Davao City, the Philippines
and explored the subject “Davao: from local agriculture to global agribusiness”.
The Symposium was co-organized by the Davao Chamber of Commerce and Bioverity International
with the support and cooperation of the Banana Asia Pacific Network, Department of Agriculture,
Department of Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry, Pilipino Banana Growers
and Exporters Association, Mindanao Banana Farmers and Exporters Association, and the City of
Davao. It was attended by around 700 delegates from 30 countries, including the BAPNET Steering
Committee delegates. [The Symposium was held back-to-back with the Banana Asia Pacific
Network’s (BAPNET) 2014 regional steering committee meeting, where delegates highlighted and
prioritised regional banana R&D needs.]

It was opened by DATE Chair, Mr. Luciano Frederick Puyod III, on behalf of the Davao City Chamber
of Commerce. Messages of Support were then delivered by Dr Agustin Molina, senior scientist and
Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator, Commodity Systems & Genetic Resources Programme, Bioversity
International ; Mr Alexander Valoria, President, Pilipino Banana Growers & Exporters Association
(PBGEA); Ms Eusebia Delos Reyes President, Mindanao Banana Farmers & Exporters Association
(MBFEA); Mr Antonio De la Cruz; President, Davao city Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc.; and
finally Dr Nicolas Roux, Senior Genetics Scientist on behalf of Dr. Dietmar Stoian, Programme Leader,
Commodity Systems and Genetic Resources Programme, Bioversity International. The opening was
concluded by speeches from Guests of Honour Hon. Proceso Alcala, Secretary, Department of
Agriculture, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

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Over two and a half days, the various speakers and delegates explored issues representing the entire
banana value chain, including banana genetic resources conservation, improvement and use, and
the threats to and opportunities for the various public and private sector stakeholders within the
value chain including breeders, researchers producers; processors, importers/exporters, consumers
and government services representatives. On the last day, delegates visited banana farms, packing
stations and shipping facilities.
Opening presentations and subsequent fora indicated that the Philippines offers examples of best
practice in banana production, marketing and social responsibility from which other producing
countries may learn. Talks also emphasised the need to better articulate and collaborate within
areas of mutual interest between private-sector (commercial grower-focus), and public/ non-profit
sectors (smallholder-focus).

Session 1: Philippines banana industry status
Day two opened with Mr Stephen Antig (Executive Director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and
Exporters Association (PBGEA)), who provided an overview of the status of the Philippines banana
industry. As a top banana producer and exporter, the Philippines is constantly addressing the threats
of major pests and diseases (Black Sigatoka, Fusarium Wilt, Moko, BBTV, Banana Blood disease, and
nematodes) as well as civil disorder; labour unions; revolutionary taxes ; ‘pole-vaulting’; oppositions
to intensive banana production; market volatility and crises, and climate change. It also looks for
ways to better exploit the opportunities offered by banana’s global popularity, free trade
agreements, better market penetration and national and international support / collaboration.
On behalf of Anflo Management and Investment Corporation, and Tadeco, Mr Anthony Sasin
described how implementing progressive leasehold programmes within worker cooperatives had
transformed productivity, provided social welfare and stimulated ownership. Mr. Edgar Bullecer, of
Paglas Corp offered an overview of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives within the
industry. Different groups are implementing CSR programmes (e.g. SAGING) to provide education,
health services and emergency relief (in the face of environmental degradation, extreme weather
events or market crises)

Session 2: Banana R&D status, including banana genetic resources
Dr Faylon presented PCAARD’s Banana Industry S and T Strategic Plan for the Philippines,
integrating converging and innovative technologies across crop, forest, aquatic and livestock
systems, and along the banana value chain from genetics, through production, post-harvest to
markets. He also emphasised their engagement with the network of implementing partners (state
universities, private sector, banana growers, small growers, international research agencies. Dr
Roux’s (Bioversity, France) presentation articulated the status of MusaNet’s soon to be published
Global Strategy for Conservation and Use of Musa Genetic Resources, the wealth of research on
Musa conservation and documentation, and alluded to some improved Musa germplasm in the
pipeline, but also implied the need to progress to facilitating farmers’ sustainable adoption of
improved banana germplasm. It was noted that the Philippines hosts some robust local wild
relatives, which could be better harnessed in any improvement programmes. Questions were raised
as to whether GMOs could be introduced, or conversely whether stakeholders could promote ‘more
sex in bananas’. Mr Lindsay (QDAFF, Australia) provide an overview of the potential for Precision
Farming in the Banana Industry, considering how to best adapt available technology to different
contexts across the Asia-Pacific, and advising that any technology must be ready to use; robust and
cost effective.

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Session 3-4: Banana disease management status
Presentations on banana diseases (including Fusarium Wilt (Foc or Panama Disease), Black Sigatoka
and Banana Xanthomonas Wilt) were also delivered by Drs Molina (Philippines) and Karamura
(Uganda) of Bioversity, Dr Perez of INISAV Cuba, and Dr Viljoen of Stellenbosch University, South
Africa. Growers raised concerns over: 1) the possibility of Foc-latency in the new somaclones
(although research into this is ongoing); 2) general inoculum build-up on small farms where diseases
are not necessarily controlled as effectively as on neighbouring larger/ more commercial farms, and
3) the possibility of tissue-cultured seedlings being infected with Foc- TR4 in the absence of an
effective quality control system. Lapanday Foods presented insights on how it was mitigating the
threat of Foc TR4 in applying research findings and implementing best-bet disease management
options. It is recommended that clear guidelines are required for government and banana
producers, to prevent the introduction or further spread, but delegates were unsure who should be
responsible for producing them- the government or the introducing companies? Perhaps publicprivate
collaboration would be the most appropriate approach.

Dr Fazil Dusunceli of FAO Rome presented FAO’s experiences and vision for integrated
management of banana diseases, covering the global programme on preventing and managing Foc.
He referred to a range of recent consultations, the African consortium workshop, the World Banana
Forum task force (including the roles of Bioversity and IITA), emergency support to Mozambique and
the upcoming consultation workshop (Rome, Dec 2014). In helping to strengthen international
collaboration FAO is focusing on policy development, awareness-raising, advocacy, surveillance,
early-warning, timely responses, phytosanitary measures, IPM, resistant cultivars, and capacity
development. National-level initiatives will strengthen coordination & linkages among institutions,
stakeholder engagement (particularly plant quarantine organisations), sustainability and ownership.
Sustainable intensification will grow more with less and adopt an ecosystems approach, engaging
stakeholders as appropriate, particularly in planning, monitoring, and promoting ownership
Whilst Foc TR4 is a great threat to Cavendish producers, there is a danger that a primary focus on
Foc may relegate other (more?) important needs of small-scale farmers, in the Asia Pacific and
elsewhere, such as BBTD, or non-disease related concerns. With regard to fungicide applications,
delegates also raised concern over the high annual frequency of fungicide passes and hence some
interest in biological control. Anxiety was also expressed about the possible ban/ restrictions on
aerial spraying (for Black Sigatoka particularly), where there is a need to encourage companies to
deploy more judicious and science-based use of fungicides.

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Session 5: Banana export market snapshots
Day three presentations focused mostly on private sector, production and markets, and opened with
overviews of the South Korean (fourth), Chinese (largest) and Iranian (along with Middle eastsecond
largest) banana export markets. Presentations were delivered respectively by M. Chang Hwa
Oh President, Jinwon Trading Co. Ltd., South Korea, Mr Zijie Liu General Director, Goodfarmer
Investment Holding Co., Ltd., China and Mr Alireza Emami President, Zarrin Group, Iran. Mr Zijei
outlined some key influences on global banana production & trade, including stimulating economic
growth to enhance demand; technology innovations improving productivity; changing client
attitudes, and the specific threat of Panama disease. He also outlined key production and postharvest
challenges: Consumer distribution, disappearing green banana sales; ripening equipment
and capacity needing improvement; cold chain distribution being uncontrollable and operational
negligence resulting in substantial losses, and the difficulty of achieving branding due to poor
weather, and weak land policy and poor plant management. He also outlined ‘consumer structure’ in
China, including the significance of hypermarkets (25% of market share); fruit shops (39%) and
emerging e-commerce.

Delegates expressed concerns over security and stability of the export markets, especially with
regard to phytosanitary issues, and it was argued that stronger liaison between exporter and
importer could help address these challenges. Further diversifying export/ import destinations might
also help manage the associated risks.

Session 6: Banana industry trends and relations
Dr. Rolando Dy, Executive Director at the Center for Food & Agribusiness, University of Asia & the
Pacific presented a snapshot of Industry & Government Relationships. This highlighted the key
private-sector roles of driving economic growth and providing employment, goods and services and
tax revenues. His banana industry stakeholder analysis referred to the range of active stakeholders
including farmers, investors, truckers, port services, input and equipment providers, banks, and
industry associations, as well as government stakeholders Department of Agriculture, Department
of Trade and Industry, Department of Agraraian Reform, Department of Labor, Local Government
Units, and Department of Science and Technology.. Key areas in industry-government relations were
presented, including investments, tariffs, levies, and sharing resources, using examples from the
Costa Rican National Banana Corporation (CORBANA), a New Zealand avocado importer and the
Philippine Sugar Research Institute. He also outlined lessons in managing collaboration (compatibility
& agreement); protest; litigation; education and media and lobbying.

Representing Nader & Ebrahim s/o Hassan (NEH) Philippines, Inc. Mr. Paul Smits examined Trends
and Opportunities for the Global Banana Industry, opening with the song Oh yes we have no
bananas about the banana variety Gros Michel, devastated in the 20th century by Foc Race 1. He
then outlined a history of NEH and the range of production, quality, cost and market challenges they
face. These included: flooding losses, fruit recovery; food safety, strict quarantines; quality defects
(e.g. Sigatoka, fruit rots) freshness (transit time); size / taste conformity, and increasing unit cost
pressures and market pressures (wet vs. retail markets and discounting). Mr Smit identified
opportunities within university exchange programs; via cooperation between key stakeholders
(world banana forum, banana associations, and high performance organizations and partnerships)
and through modernization and innovation. He also presented a video on the use of a recently
developed Foc diagnostic kit.

Mr. Remegio Garcia Chairman, MBFEA concluded the session by presenting challenges facing
medium and small scale banana growers. Although small independent banana growers are not
contractually bound, and modern technologies and transportation can facilitate international market
access, these growers are challenged by their limited capacity to fund and benefit from research or
to develop especially government collaboration to access appropriate technologies, varieties and
other means of support, particularly to manage Panama disease and increasingly frequent climate
extremes of typhoons and floods. Collaborations have been developed with BAPNET, Bioversity
International and Lapanday Foods to make Foc resistant varieties available to small growers, but
supply is still very limited with inconclusive evaluation results that need further validation in
different locations.

In the ensuing discussion Dr Molina suggested that the recent spotlight on the new threat of Foc TR4
in Africa particularly highlights the unsung successes of banana R&D efforts to address challenges
such as Foc TR4 in the Asia Pacific, despite relatively little support over the last 15 years. Mr Smits
re-emphasised the collaborative ethos of working together to find solutions. Mr Dy noted that
opportunities to harness economies-of-scale within R&D should be shared more with small growers,
particularly regarding panama disease management via the DA . Mr Puyod suggested strengthening
growers’ lobbying capacity within the Philippines to protect their livelihoods, and Mr Dy cited the
example of R&D public-private support throughout SE Asia, (e.g. in Vietnamese coffee production,
good PPP – with Monsanto). There was also further discussion regarding the supply of tissue culture
plants and Foc-resistant cultivars to small-scale growers.

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Session 7: Market opportunities and certification
Opening the next session, Ms. Rosemarie Castillo from the Bureau of Export Trade Promotion,
Department of Trade & Industry outlined Fresh Cavendish Market Opportunities for the Philippines
highlighting the US$962M value of Philippines export banana (2013) within existing markets
including in: China, Japan, Korea, UAE and USA (also linking to Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Oman,
Peru, Taiwan and Thailand). Other potential markets include Hong Kong, Iran, Kuwait, New Zealand,
Saudi Arabia and Singapore (also linking to China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Malaysia, Thailand and
the US). Key global markets include: Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia,
UK, and USA. The main challenges facing the Philippines industry include : pole vaulting; pests &
diseases; trade threats & sanctions (China, Iran); Absence of protocols (Taiwan, Australia, USA) and a
lack of information for potential markets. Addressing SPS related issues with existing importing
countries, and fast-tracking protocols in potential markets will help meeting some of thesde
challenges

Mr. Ruben See, President of the Manufacturers & Exporters of Banana Chips, Association of the
Philippines talked all about banana chips, made from cooking bananas and exported around the
world, as an added-value product. The Philippines remains the largest banana chips exporter and
more of the local smallholder cultivar cardava needs to be grown to supply this market.
Certification Systems in the Banana Industry were described by Mr. Mon V. Adecer , Manager
(IMR), Compliance & Certifications / RIM-Global Records of Dole, Stanfilco. (an ex-subsidiary of
California-based DOLE Corp). The company began shipments in 1968 and in 1995 attained its ISO
9002 certification. In 2000, DOLE was first in the world to achieve triple certification, and first in the
Philippines to receive international certifications. It has also gained Korea organic certification and
Organic US NOP certification ISO 9001:2008. The presentation allowed delegates to understand the
requirements for and benefits of certification.

Discussion affirmed that certification adds value and responds to consumer demands. Unifrutti
mentioned the more stringent Australian demands that require more rigorous protocols; including
quarantine requirements (see later presentation). The need for expanding cardava production for
chips was further highlighted. In replying to Mr Puyod’s query on what small medium scale growers
should do, Mr Adecer asserted that certification is possible for small growers, (citing the example of
a 1ha farm exporting certified asparagus to Europe).

Session 8: Tissue culture, quarantine and shipping issues
The penultimate session opened with a comprehensive update on banana micro-propagation/
tissue culture technology by Dr. S.W. Lee Research Fellow, from the tissue culture section of the
Taiwan Banana Research Institute. The speaker referred delegates to the poster displayed in the
foyer (link). Protocols and training are available, and Dr Lee emphasised using 75% alcohol as a
washing medium instead of water, which reduces contamination. Prof Flaminiano, speaking on
behalf of TC industry, raised issues how to maintain laboratory asepsis, and improve establishment.
Dr Lee explained TBRI’s continuous dehumidification, insisting on lab coats (synthetic material) and
head caps, and medium and container hygiene, identifying any contaminants, as well as using
fungicide treatments such as Thidiazuron (TDZ) and the growth regulator PP3 to enhance rooting.
This was followed by a presentation on Philippines Plant Quarantine procedures offered by Ms.
Joan May Mozo, Bureau of Plant Industry, who stressed the individual country context, assured
delegates that phytosanitary policies were still being implemented in the Philippines even with the
implementation of zero tariff, and outlined pest risk management and assessments.

In presenting shipping trends of the Philippine banana industry Mr Joselito Ilagan of the Shipping
and Transport Corporation explained that traditionally reefer vessels were used to ship bananas,
whereby the shipper needed to fill the capacity of the ship, and waiting for full capacity presented
serious logistical constraints. The recent advent of controlled temperature reefer containers has
brought significant benefits: 1,540 boxes in one container only; no need to accumulate so much
volume to ship out produce; convenient way to ship out produce from farm to shipping port.
General cargo terminals aren’t always equipped with modern container handling equipment. A fullcontainer
handling terminal will boost productivity and efficiency and allow better scheduling. Mr
Ilagan then highlighted the immediate challenges facing shipping facilities: the need for more
supporting infrastructure; container imbalance – more laden containers going out than laden
containers coming in (99% returns empty) and as banana exports increase, we need to develop
shipping technology to match the needs of the banana industry. Delegates’ concern over shipping
container imbalances and shortages could be managed through better demand forecasting,
especially during peak season.

Discussions suggested that the DA could do more to address the needs of small growers, although Dr
Faylon cited numerous examples of ongoing support such as: rehabilitating packing houses,
establishing 40 somaclone demonstration sites, providing support for crop diversification (e.g.
cacao, maize); producing trichoderma for Foc TR4 suppression and tagging more than 7000 infected
banana plants. Bioversity continues to work with DA-BAR and PCAARRD achieving a great deal, yet
with much still to be done.

A delegate asked about import licensing, and the composition of the accreditation committee. Mr
Mozon explained that committee members are drawn from the government, university and the
private sector, headed by a government representative and including an exporter representative.
Session 9: Sustainable production and school feeding programs
Dr Lino Cortez, representing, SAGREX Foods Corporation provided an alternative perspective on
sustainable banana production in his presentation, soil management for improved productivity,
where optimal soil nutrition can successfully manage Foc TR4, without resorting to more
conventional intensive management practices .
Dr Molina of Bioversity suggested the need to validate the beneficial effects indicated by the soil
amendment practices outlined in the presentation.
The session concluded with Mr Ireneo D. Dalayon CEO for the Federation of Cooperatives in
Mindanao presenting the banana school feeding program that aims provide better nutrition for
school children by to harness banana production gluts and nutritional value

Symposium synopsis
In presenting the symposium synopsis, Mr Vincent Johnson of Bioversity International reiterated
that the Philippines offers examples of best practice in banana production, marketing and social
responsibility, from which other countries might learn. He also stressed the need to better articulate
commonalities between private-sector (commercial grower-focus), and public/ non-profit sectors
(smallholder-focus). Such alliances should provide some synergies to address the key global
challenges posed by banana diseases and guide the development and adoption of more robust
banana germplasm, and other key banana R&D strategies. The symposium has also offered useful
snapshots of banana export markets, industry trends and relations, market opportunities and
certification, tissue culture and quarantine practices. The symposium has successfully addressed key
issues that link local banana production to global agribusiness, and delegates would do well to
reflect on these to foster a more collaborative ethos in the future.

Closing Remarks & Acknowledgements
The Symposium was formally closed by DATE Chair, Mr. Luciano Frederick Puyod III, who
acknowledged the contributions of all speakers and other stakeholders who helped to successfully
realize the Symposium.

Symposium Field Visit
On the last day, delegates visited banana farms, packing stations and shipping facilities. This helped
participants to better contextualise the issues explored during the symposium.

Preapared by:
Vincent Johnson and Agustin B. Molina
Bioversity International

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