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Consider the lowly saba banana

The often taken-for-granted saba banana could be more profitable than you think.

While we were in Davao City recently, we met Ponchit Ponce Enrile who is managing a commercial farm in Lipa City. He was so ecstatic briefing us about the money-making potential of the saba banana, especially when it is grown in Luzon where the farm gate price is higher than in Mindanao.

One hectare of Saba banana can produce fruits worth as R1.6 million in one year.

One hectare of Saba banana can produce fruits worth as R1.6 million in one year.

Ponchit said that in Luzon the usual ex-farm price per piece of saba is R2 which is far below the usual price we pay in the market where the fruit is sold by the kilo. Nevertheless the P2 price per piece can already be profitable for the farmer.

Here is how. There are usually 2,000 hills of saba that can be planted in one hectare. Two plants (not more) have to be maintained per hill so that they will develop into robust plants that will bear big bunches. In the second year after planting, each hill will usually produce two big bunches ranging from 180 to 200 pieces per bunch or 360 to 400 pieces per hill per year.

This means that the 2,000 hills in one hectare will be able to produce 720,000 to 800,000 pieces of saba. At P2 per piece, one hectare has the potential of producing P1,440,000 to P1,600,000 worth of Saba.

According to Ponchit, saba has a number of advantages compared to lakatan which is also a favorite variety in the Philippines. Saba is resistant to the bunchy top virus, which affects lakatan. Saba is also more resistant to drought compared to lakatan. Ponchit said that when lakatan is overtaken by drought, you can expect a very poor harvest. Saba banana also has a longer shelf life than other banana varieties in the market.

But it is very important to observe the right cultural practices in growing saba. The land should be well drained and rich in organic matter. The plantation has to be weeded and only a maximum of two plants should be allowed to develop per hill at a time. Extra suckers should be removed.

Adequate fertilization is a must. Each plant should be applied with 50 grams of urea or 75 grams of ammonium sulfate each month. Upon shooting, when the leaves become shorter in preparation for blossom emergence, add 50 grams of muriate of potash (0-0-60) to the urea or ammonium sulfate.

Saba banana is a favorite fruit. It can be fried, boiled, barbecued, made into sweets, turon, and other preparations. In fact, some doctors recommend eating ripe uncooked saba because they say it is more beneficial to one’s health.

Now you see, even an ordinary banana variety can also be a moneymaker.