By Antonio Colina
DAVAO CITY – The Philippines is losing its banana experts to its Southeast Asian neighbors who are starting to strengthen their own banana industry, an official of a group of banana growers lamented.
Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) Executive Director Stephen Antig said he is worried the country could run out of experts to work on its banana farms because they are being pirated by the country’s Southeast Asian competitors.
“What is alarming is that they have been pirating a lot of our technical people, offering them three times, four times more than what they’re getting. It is possible there is brain drain in the Philippine banana industry because as they say money is still the best motivating factor,” he said.
Antig said the success of the Philippine banana industry is largely due to its skilled banana experts and that it is worrisome if the “brain drain” continues.
“We are really worried about that. We cannot afford to lose our good technical people who are very experienced in terms of banana growing. Humility aside, I believe we grow one of the best, if not the best, bananas in the world, even outperforming the production of Latin American competitors,” he said.
The country is still the biggest producer of bananas in Asia and the second largest behind Ecuador, South America this year, according to Antig.
He called on all banana stakeholders, including the government, to “get our act together” to maintain the country’s global competitiveness.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that banana exports this year reached $983 million, higher by 57.5 percent than the $624 million recorded in the same period last year.
“It’s not only the private sector that should come into play, we definitely need the help of the government,” he said.
Antig said they are set to meet with Agriculture Secretary William Dar on August 22 in Davao City to discuss the major concerns of the industry and implement the programs in the industry’s development road map that was signed in December 2018 by Secretary Manny Piñol.