The Philippines, one of the largest exporter of bananas, lost a quarter of its crop in Typhoon Bopha, an industry group said today, adding that it has also likely spread a destructive pest.

The Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association said the deadly storm, which has so far killed 475 people, would also cost the industry $318 million.

Executive director Stephen Antig said Bopha destroyed 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of the country’s 42,000 hectares of banana farms.

The hurricane-force winds and flash floods flattened wide swathes of the hillsides of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces, the centre of the industry, he added. And apart from the visible damage, Antig said there were fears that the floods might have spread Panama Disease, which prevents the plant from bearing any fruit before eventually killing it.

The bug then renders the affected areas unsuitable for replanting. About 1.5 lakh people depend on the banana industry in Compostela Valley alone.

The Philippines likely to have lost eight billion pesos ($196 million approx) in ruined harvests and damaged facilities in the storm, Antig said, while rehabilitating farms would take several months and likely cost another five billion pesos.

It would then take nine months after the replanting to reap the next harvest.

The state census office said the Philippines shipped $471 million worth of the fruit last year —— accounting for one percent of total exports.

Bopha is the latest blow to the Philippines’ banana industry, which was embroiled in a row this year with major market China over alleged pests on shipments that left tonnes of the fruit to rot at Chinese ports.

The two governments later held talks to resolve the issue.

Antig said the industry was also hit by the international foreign exchange embargo on Iran, and an attack of Panama Disease on some plantations.

(This article was published on December 6, 2012)
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