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Going bananas: SAAD farmer peeling new opportunities with lakatan income

In June 2021, Mr. Rione Layog, a farmer from New Bataan, Davao de Oro cultivated 500 lakatan plantlets in a production area less than a hectare. Lakatan is a dessert banana cultivar, eaten as is when ripe and an excellent base for banana bread for its sweetness and aroma. 

After a year, Mr. Layog’s lakatan production has augmented his income by Php 9,000 monthly; a remarkable Php 45,000 when tallied since June. He estimates he’ll continue to reap the benefits in the succeeding months up until early next year.

Mu-harvest ko sa isa ka bulan kaduha. Dili nako gusto kuhaon ang 75 days kay akong na-obserbahan, gaan. So kinahanglan mupatong ug 80 days long” (I harvest thrice in one month. I don’t want to get 75 days because as I’ve observed, they’re lighter. The bananas need to reach 80 days), Mr. Layog related. 

Those 75-80 days is the standard length of time from the start of flowering production to becoming a mature fruit. At 80 days, the bananas become plumper, which means heavier weight and higher income opportunities.

Sa akoang duha ka cropping, makapalit jud ug bugas…ang isa, ipalit nako ug abono” (In my two cropping, I can buy rice for consumption with one, and fertilizer with the other), he added. 

The bananas are cut by the stalk while still green. The buyer takes care of preserving the fruit to ripen evenly for market display. While conducting monitoring, SAAD RPMSO 11 found Mr. Layog harvesting the fruit.

Class A ug C ni siya,” he related, showing the bananas he harvested earlier that day hanging on a makeshift bamboo hanger. “Naa kuy kaila tagadiri ra pud sa amoa nagakuha. Ginaadto sa Manila. Musaka munaog ang kilo, pero akong pinakataas nga nakuha, ang class A kay Php 22.00. Pinakababa ang P18.00. Class C tag-diyes” (These are Class A to C. I know someone from here that buys. They sell in Manila. Price per kilo fluctuates, but the highest I got to sell for class A was Php 22.00. The lowest at Php18.00. For Class C, it’s Php 10.00).

His buyer arrived promptly. They started individually chopping the bunches from the stalk. The lower bunches were classified C, the rest A. According to Mr. Layog, not one bunch of his bananas has previously been classified B since he started selling. The difference between the A and B classes is virtually nonexistent.

SAAD’s 11 Banana Production Project

Mr. Layog’s plantlets formed part of the 32,500 that SAAD Region 11 distributed. The project, banana production, overarched to 2021, but was slated as a 2020’s livelihood project previously identified by SAAD’s Regional Program Management Support Office (RPMSO) 11. Mr. Layog was one of the 65 individual beneficiaries in New Bataan. Alongside fertilizer components (urea, complete, muriate of potash), the project costs Php 882,573.25. RPMSO 11 trained the beneficiaries beforehand as well. 

But while he was at a neighbor’s, he noticed unplanted banana plantlets in their yard. He asked for the reason, and learned that some of his co-beneficiaries had leftover plantlets of at least a hundred or so. The plantlets were at an oversupply because some farmers opted to plant other high-value crops in their lands, so he proposed a barter system to get 600 plantlets more from different beneficiaries in exchange for small farm services and supplies. In hinterland areas, the timing for agricultural inputs is pivotal in ensuring farmers get the best out of a cropping season. 

As of writing, he estimates 1,100 lakatan planted in his farm, in varying degrees of growth.

Wala sila nasabay tanan ug tanom kay ang uban akong gi-nursery pa, kay kinahanglan kaayo” (They (plantlets) were not planted uniformly because some I put on a nursery as it was needed (to do so), Mr. Layog said.

Asked about his implementation, Mr. Layog credited proper sanitation as key. “Giatiman jud nako. Sanitation jud. Akong mga gamit, gina-separate jud nako na. Ginahumulan nako. Kani panghimuso, kani pangtumba” (I’ve taken care of it. Used proper sanitation. My tools (used for bananas) are separate and I clean them regularly. I have separate tools for flowering and harvesting).

Bananas in general, regardless of variety, are prone to diseases. Fusarium wilt, popularly known as the Panama disease greatly affected the cavendish (variety) industry in the Philippines recently. In Davao del Norte alone, the PNA reported 2,402 hectares of affected land from banana plantations. Sanitation, both in big players and small farms plays a crucial role to ensure successful harvests.

The plantlets given by SAAD were tissue-cultured, meant to resist soil-borne diseases and ensure lower mortality rates. The plants started fruiting right after the ten-month mark. In comparison, regular bullhead plantlets are expected to start fruiting at a range of 12-16 months. 

“Kani atoang mga projects, base ni sa mga kinahanglanon jud sa area. Kung gusto sila ug saging, saging ang ihatag” (Our projects are based on the needs of the area. If they want banana (plantlets), then banana (plantlets) it is), Ms. Naomi Lamata, SAAD Region 11 Focal Person, said.

Ang SAAD special nga programa. Mao ng dako ta ug matabang sa mga farmers, lalo na jud sa lagyong dapit kay dili ta limitado sa isa lang ka type sa intervention (SAAD is a special program. We help our farmers, especially those in geographically isolated areas because we are not limited to only one type of intervention),” she added.

Integrated with SAAD 11’s animal production projects (itik, upgraded goats, chicken), crop-based interventions like lakatan were intended for FA-beneficiaries to increase area production and encourage enterprising efforts.

Rising Fertilizer Prices

Like every farmer in the country, Mr. Layog wasn’t impervious to the rising retail prices of fertilizers. Due to lack of buying power, he admitted to resorting to a fertilizing scheme that was unorthodox.

Akong pag-abono, on and off jud. May gani ang tissue, musugot ra. Na-compare jud nako na. Basta tissue, kung makakatay na ang gamot, diretso-diretso na” (When it comes to fertilizing, application is on and off. Lucky for tissue-cultured (plantlets), it adjusted. I’ve compared it and when the(tissue-cultured) plantlets start to properly root, it’ll survive on its own), he said. 

While not recommended, staggered fertilization can supplement the growth of bananas when done correctly. To optimize harvests however, a proper fertilization scheme should be followed. 

Mr. Layog also aired that he has not used the standard muriate of potash upon flowering. Muriate of potash or MOP, is a type of fertilizer used to stimulate further growth of the banana bunch and boost the size of the fruit’s individual fingers. As of writing, a sack of 50 kilograms MOP in Davao de Oro costs Php 2,600 constituting 29% of the monthly income he gets from his harvests. 

If Mr. Layog was to purchase said MOP, he could only get 3 sacks, which is grossly inadequate for the number of banana plants he has on the fruiting stage.

Katong akong halin niagi, gipalit nako ug complete ug urea…gusto nako makapalit ug potash para sa mga namuso pero perting mahala. Perting paita jud tung pag-abono nako ani kay dili man jud pwede nga dili ni abonohan” (The income I had before, I used to buy complete and urea (fertilizers)…I wanted to buy potash for the flowering ones but it was expensive. It was heartbreaking, I needed to fertilize because the plants needed it), he said.

SAAD 11 is in the process of procuring additional fertilizers to support beneficiaries. In the meantime, Mr. Layog said he’ll make do with the resources he has. 

“Dako gihapon kaayo ug tabang ang SAAD kay kanang tissue mahal kaayo kung paliton” (SAAD is still a great help, the (tissue-cultured) plantlets alone are expensive to buy), he concluded. For farmers like Mr. Layog, any kind of farming intervention from the government is welcome.

To future-proof his progress, banana suckers selected to replace the parent plant or followers have been slated for fruiting. ###


Writer: James Brian R. Flaga, SAAD RPMSO 11 Information Officer
Source: DA-SAAD Davao de Oro

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