NEWS: Banana workers coop assails Lapanday, TRO prohibiting sale of “Class B” bananas to 3rd parties

may 1

TAGUM CITY- A banana-growing workers cooperative here has assailed the sudden issuance of a 20-day temporary restraining order of the provincial adjudicator of the Dept. of Agrarian Reform in Davao del Norte following a complaint of the Lapanday Foods Corp (LFC) prohibiting it to sell “Class B” cavendish bananas to third parties.

In a press conference, Valentino Rotoni, chairman of the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-2 (Hearbco-2), hit the TRO issued Thursday by DAR Adjudication Board provincial adjudicator Jose Nilo Tillano saying that he was aghast to see DAR now running against the welfare of its own agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“We will no longer sell our Class B banana rejects to Lapanday which buys these at low prices,” he said.

He said that he was surprised why on Thursday the TRO was suddenly issued by Tillano

on that day when Hearbco-2’s yearly marketing contract with LFC as the buyer of their “Class B” bananas ended.

He charged that LFC has been forcing them to sell to the company their banana rejects “when other buyers even quarrel among themselves during bidding over our Class B bananas”.

He said that LFC offered only to buy their “Class B” bananas at $1.50 per box while the Davao City-based Mira Agri Ventures, which won in in last week’s bidding, offered $3.20 per box.

He said that naturally Hearbco-2 chose the highest price “to sustain our banana production at a time of high cost of inputs and improve our income to feed our families.”

Rotoni said though that LFC remains to be the buyer of Hearbco-2’s “Class A” bananas which the company buys at low $2.90 per box as covered in a separate ten-year banana marketing agreement which would end by December 2013.

“Buying prices for Class A bananas from other giant firms such as Dole and Unifruti range from $3 to $4 per box,” said Jeremias Coralde, Hearbco-2 production manager.

Herbco-2 officials also accused of LFC of cornering their production through high-priced  agricultural inputs and lower buying prices and of implementing tough standards for “Class A” bananas “so it could become Class B bananas and buy it at much lower prices.”

At its recent production figures, Herbco-2 has an average harvest of 14,000 boxes and 6,000 boxes of “Class A” and “Class B” bananas or about 100,000 boxes of export bananas per month.

Coralde bared that with Hearbco-2 as landowner-producer of bananas and LFC as the buyer-marketer the cooperative is paying LFC about P500,000 for the aerial spray alone plus the about P110,000 for the plane’s fuel in every week.

DAR adjudicator Tillano in his grant of writ of injunction with TRO to LFC stated that in the marketing agreement LFC, as the surviving firm after the merger with the Global Fruits Corp, assignee firm of then Hijo Plantation Corp, has the first option to buy of Hearbco-2’s banana rejects or those do not conform to export specifications.

At press time, Hearbco officials with their counsels are preparing for their countermoves. Tillano set the hearing on TRO on May 6.

At present, Herbco-2’s 342 members, who were former Hijo banana workers, are still amortizing through the Land Bank of the Philippines the 278.41-hectare land they wangled in the late 90s out from the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

From the land distribution, they formed a cooperative and agreed to share equally from net earnings from cavendish banana production they continued when the production of Hijo Plantation Corp ended following the putting of the vast tract of land of Jose Tuazon Jr  under CARP.

“Out from the .82-hectare share of land for each member, I managed to earn at the range of P5,000 to P8,000 every quincena (15 days) from my billing from Lapanday,” said Danny Yting, a Hearbco-s member.

Until at present, Hearbco-2 has an estimated total assets of P200 million and owns a cooperative buildings and packing house right at its plantation located in Barangay Madaum, some 5 kms northeast of this city.

Hearbco-2’s plantation just forms part of the 1,200-hectare banana plantation enclave of Madaum area in the city. It neighbors with the plantations of Hearbco-1 and Harbco. (Cha Monforte/Rural Urban News)

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