New banana polevaulting in the offing

aug 19-25, 2010

BLOGISTA

By Cha Monforte

A new banana price war is a-brewing in Davao del Norte homefront. It’s again between the hundreds of cavendish banana growers and a few of big banana exporting buyers and companies.

Just this Wednesday during the joint committee hearing of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, I heard about new complaints of the banana buyers particularly in Asuncion and Kapalong areas. Basically price issues were raised and complained by several growers belonging to the to Magatos Banana Growers Association, Inc. (MBGAI) to the SP’s committees on cooperatives and legal matters respectively chaired by Boardmembers Alan Dujali and Atty. Raymond Joey Millan.

During the hearing Noel Quidilla, MBGAI president and former mediaman, said that affected banana growers are planning to rescind their contracts with Andres M. Soriano company if it continues to stonewall their written requests for contract renegotiation amid the trend of high banana pricing in the market.

Quidilla said that small banana growers who have banana buying contracts with AMS have to content with the fixed buying prices ranging from $ 2.46 to $2.70 per box, $.30 of which is retained and converted as incentive while freelance buyers are now offering them at a highest $ 4 per box.

About 300 small export banana growers having a combined banana production area of 1,000 hectares in the province are currently taking a toll from the fixed contract they have with the AMS with a timeline ranging from five years to a long 20 years.

Now some complaining growers are contemplating that with the continued low pricing of their banana products amid the high pricing prevailing in the market they are planning “pole vault” from their buying contracts with AMS company by selling their bananas to high-pricing freelance banana buyers.

They contended that even big players which are members of the Philippine Banana Growers Exporters Association (PBGEA) are buying bananas at an average of $3.20.

“We just want for a right price to our bananas,” Quidilla added.

Faced with the complaints, the committee members could only give advice to the affected growers since the Capitol cannot be a party to their contracts with AMS.

Boardmember Millan proposed, why not a class suit?, to lessen litigation costs which would then be shared by the affected growers, and let the court decide. Boardmember Ely Dacalus suggested to them to only renegotiate, dialogue with AMS (otherwise read in this quarter as: beg or request), and if the contract can’t be undone, “resort to court action”.

A grower who requested that he not be named bared that that sometime in 2007 they already made a dialogue with AMS but the highest price that the company gave them was only $2.40 per box, while PBGEA’s price was already at $3.20 per box. So several of them pole-vaulted in  that year resulting to his apprehension. AMS, he said, filed an anti-fencing case against him which was eventually dismissed by the fiscal’s office. They tried to pole-vault for one month in the past to the obvious panic of the buying companies.

We learned that up until now the affected growers have not yet received any from the $.30 detained incentive since December 2009 and those covering the first six months this year. So they complain further.

Meantime, Boardmember Hernani Duco asked the affected growers to bring their contracts for the committees’ detailed perusal on the next committee hearing.

So this is it in our province’s Top 1 dollar-earning industry, and here’s this smoke billowing up from a simmering fire that has been ignited some two years ago by the freelance buyers.

But who are these freelance buyers so new banana growers could contact them and sell their bananas enroute to their dropping points. Verily, in this price war, our growers want to sell their bananas to the highest buyer, of course, while contracting export companies want to fix  their selling prices to profit more while they are incurring huge production expenditures including the costly aerial spraying by their small planes and the high costs of inputs.

Our pole-vaulting banana growers can’t be blamed for dreaming to be alleviated more from their plight and get out further from economic fix, although they have at least already make better their income and lives via the banana growership.

BLOGS AND BITS:

Davao del Boardmember Antonio Lagunzad (District 1) abstained during the voting of the resolution giving Governor Rodolfo del Rosario blanket authority to sign any MOA, contract with any national government agency. His insertions were incorporated already in the measure when it was tackled. During the plenary, some two sessions ago, he expressed warriness over the giving of a blanket authority to the governor raising a scenario that someone might abuse him for that, we don’t know. But he still abstained. Parang nag iba na yata and ihip ng hangin ni Board kay Gov, bakit kaya?

Someone ranted in the airwaves and called me names when verily I just contested thoughts and ideas and never engaged mudslinging and character assassination regarding my story and opinion on the “schism” (daw) in Tagum diocese.  That’s not my style. Stick to rebuttal in ideas and not against persons. In  newspeak, “Don’t shoot the messenger”.

We heard that there’s also a “man behind” Dr. Romulo Busuego, the known master fund raiser of Davao Regional Hospital (DRH). He’s Dr. Aps Suyko, chief of the clinics. Dr. Aps carries out the development visions of Dr. Mulong to DRH. Kudos to them.

The Reporters in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley, Inc. (RDCVAI) will convene next week. Will text you. (e-mail: chamonforte@yahoo.com)

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