CROP SHIFTING. Sto. Tomas town Mayor Roland Dejesica says he is worried about the status of banana industry in his town as the farmers shifted to corn planting. In an interview Wednesday (Oct. 26, 2022), he warns that the province's billion dollar earner commodity is on the brink of dying because the Fusarium wilt or the Panama disease has not been thoroughly addressed. (PNA photo by Che Palicte)

STO. TOMAS, Davao del Norte – The local chief executive here has called on the national government to help small-scale banana farmers address the onslaught of Fusarium wilt or Panama disease.

In an interview Wednesday, Mayor Roland Dejesica said the Panama disease has reached alarming levels, forcing farmers to shift to corn and threatening the long term viability of the town's banana industry.

According to Dejesica, Sto. Tomas town accounts for at least 70 percent of the total banana planted areas in Davao del Norte.

About half of that area, he said, has been converted as corn plantation.

Dejesica warned that the province's billion dollar earner commodity of the province is on the brink of dying because the Fusarium wilt has not yet been thoroughly address.

The Fusarium wilt is a soil-borne pathogen, a breed of fungus that is attracted to banana plants. It can live in dormancy for 30 years to 50 years.

Its fungi block plants' vascular system and deprive the plant of necessary minerals, nutrients and moisture, causing it to turn yellow until it dies.

"We already asked the national government to look at our banana industry situation. We hope that they will extend help," Dejesica isad.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, he said, has been briefed on the situation during a previous visit.

For starters, Dejesica said a research center should be established in order to study and understand the causes of Panama disease.

The Department of Agriculture (DA), he added, should also provide regular assistance to the affected small growers.

"We are asking for technical assistance from DA. Our cooperatives did not sustain in providing the banana farmers their inputs because they can no longer afford the skyrocketing prices of fertilizers," the mayor said. (PNA)