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Philippines: Banana ‘pole-vaulting’ worsens in Davao del Norte

A rift between banana companies and some of their contract growers over “pole-vaulting” continues to worsen in Davao del Norte province. Pole-vaulting occurs when a contract grower sells his produce to companies other than the one he had signed a contract with. On Monday last week, several truckloads of bananas were seized and some growers were arrested in Asuncion town, allegedly on the behest of Soriano Fruits Corp. (SFC). SFC officials were not available for comment but a source said the company only prevented the transport of the products because the grower did so without its consent.

The same source said the practice of pole-vaulting was killing the multimillion-dollar banana export industry in the province. SFC has three farms in the province—Magatos in Asuncion town; and Camuning and Sampao villages in Kapalong town.  Jorge Sollano, one of the banana growers, said SFC and other companies had been unfair in pricing their produce. For example, he said, SFC was buying the farmers’ harvest at only $2.11 per box, plus a five-cent incentive. This pricing, he said, had brought them losses.

Sollano said the growers had asked the company to give them fair prices but instead, it started to collect an annual “farm use” fee of P26,000 per hectare from contract growers. Contract growers under SFC have complained about it because it was not part of the agreement they had signed, he said. In defending the growers’ decision to pole-vault, Sollano said they made more money selling to other companies for at least $3.95 per box or about P160 (P40.48=$1), plus a five-cent incentive.

"The provincial government has viewed the banana pole-vaulting as an alarming problem", Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario said. He said an association of banana companies in the region had asked him to intervene and prevent the practice, which cropped up as a result of the opening of the Chinese market. Del Rosario said some buyers, who were dumping their products to China, would buy Class B bananas at a higher price than that of Class A bananas normally exported to other countries.

This practice, he said, enticed many growers to sell their harvest to other buyers.
Del Rosario said he had forwarded the letter of the banana association to the provincial board for possible solution. Davao del Norte has about 50,000 hectares of banana farms. At least 50,000 people are directly involved in the industry, according to figures from banana companies.


Publication date: 3/14/2008


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