Price Plunge in Black Market’s “Spot Buying” of Cavendish Bananas Baffles Small Independent Growers in DavNor

Top export banana producing province of Davao del Norte has been flocked in by tens of hundreds of buyers procuring Cavendish bananas of small independent growers through “spot buying”.

Small independent banana growers at the mercy of this low-priced “spot buying” of banana buyer-exporters are in the dire economic straits since January this year, giving doom to the fading golden age of Cavendish bananas in a province hailed as the banana capital of the Philippines.
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“Spot buying” means that individual buyers would just come to small growers who have plantation area and access to packing plant and they offer to buy the bananas at variable price and provide them brand’s cartons. Spot buyers offer cash advances (C.A.’s) to do financing to the growers.
“Spot buying” is different to “contracted pricing” where companies would have a contract with the growers specifying costs to deduct and the fixed price whole year round to buy the bananas.
These banana spot buyers usually export Cavendish bananas to China, but “we have no idea why their buying prices remain so low while they ironically appear to be the black market of our export bananas,” said small banana grower Dominggo Tambien, who has only one-hectare banana plantation in Sto. Tomas town in the province.
He said that “spot buying” prices for export bananas plunged first to P120 per box in December 2016 and then suddenly the price nosedived to lowest P60 to P80 per box in January 2017.
“We don’t know the real reason of the price decreases. Spot buyers have varied reasons in saying at the farmers’ level. They first said they had to give Christmas bonus to their workers, that’s why the price sank. Then they would say the price sank in China due to the other fruits that competed our bananas, then we were told of high quarantine fees which was already stopped, and so on,” Tambien said in an interview.
He however said that it is about three weeks now that the spot buying prices increased to P100 plus per box of “4 to 6 big hands” bananas, the first-class bananas weighing an average of 13.5 kilos per carton.
Tambien said at that price it could at least tide them over to breakeven levels even as he informed that prevailing contracted prices of a banana company in one case he knew of range from P250 to P290 per box.
Juanito Angco, another small banana grower having only a fourth of a hectare banana farm in the same town, believe that small independent growers having an average of 1 to 2 hectares of banana plantation, have now become the number 1 producer of Cavendish bananas if the aggregate hectarage of banana plantations is considered.
From 2016 data of Sto. Tomas municipal agriculturist office, the town has a total of 10,180.05 hectares of banana plantations, 7,140.404 hectares or 70.14 percent of which were cultivated by 4,973 small independent growers, while multinational and corporate banana producers Marsman, Stanfilco, Lapanday and Tadeco have a combined 3,039.596 hectares of banana plantation or 29.86 percent of the total. That is in one town in Davao del Norte alone.
Angco said that small growers have to bear with gross expenses per box that hover at P110 and these would include the usual P12 for the crew (per packer) and P5 for the packing plant fee, all per box.
Given a fairly good price, a hectare of banana plantation could make a gross of 4,000 boxes in a year for a gross income of P1 million and gross expenses of P600,000 thereby giving a net income of P400,000 to the grower, and ”that is good enough but not now under this low spot buying levels,” he said.
Tambien recalled that spot buying had strong resurgence after typhoon Pablo struck in 2012 as Chinese buyers or canvassers flocked in and procured cavendish bananas at P600 to P700 per box resulting to polevaulting of small growers over the contracted price they had with big companies due to lure of high prices from Chinese buyers and canvassers.
This spot buying strategy started rawly in early 2000, and showed first expansion in 2005 but it got a foothold in the province around 2010. Then Pablo struck.
“But now, there is no polevaulting anymore as spot buying sticks to low prices, while contracted pricing remains high. What is there to polevault when the price offered by spot buyers have changed from high to low?” Tambien said.
He added that big buying companies have already made some price rectifications with the assertive farmer growers given the yearly economic review provision in the contracts.
Before typhoon Pablo, there was also a heyday of banana “consols”, short for consolidators, who acted as bulk buyer-shippers of bananas produced by small growers, buying at high prices but without much regard to quality control of bananas. The consols went bankrupt when their bananas arrived ripe in Saudi Arabia.
It was during Arroyo time that foreign buyers started to flock in to Davao Region and partnered with the local “consols” and canvassers, changing the configurations of banana buying players and threatening the longtime-hold of the so-called Big Four of banana industry: Dole, Unifrutti, Del Monte and Sumifru.
Tambien said that spot buying transactors have been the ones relied on by small growers due to their fast cash advance systems “without O.R.-O.R. and with gentleman’s agreements only coupled with their abundance of container vans and cartons.”
“Facilitator na lang ang mga malalaking kumpanya dito, and Davao del Norte becomes the territory of spot buying than any other areas in Mindanao,” he said. This as Unifrutti, besides having contracted pricing, engages also into “spot buying.”
“We appeal to our Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to save our banana industry. The small independent banana growers need help, the industry badly needs immediate government intervention. The government needs to intercede to the plight of thousands small independent banana growers,” said Nick Suaybaguio, Sr., who has three-hectare banana plantation in upland Talaingod town in Davao del Norte.
Industry insiders in the province alleged that the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), which is controlled by big banana companies and subsidiaries, has only worked for their interests since then and not for the interests of the small independent growers and agrarian reform beneficiary cooperatives, which are now tilting the balance to their favor.
Recent regional data came congruent to this. The PBGEA in 2015 put at around 44,670.29 hectares the total hectarage of companies cultivated by big banana companies while some 30,000 hectares were tilled by small landowners and agrarian-reform beneficiaries.
These banana plantations are found in the provinces of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur. (mindanaosunchronicle/Cha Monforte)

Dapecol-Tadeco JVA Area To Be Transformed Into the Biggest International Airport in PH

The 5,308 hectares of land leased since 1969 by Tadeco would be transformed into the country’s biggest most modern, world class international airport.

That is in so far as the initial outlook of planners making a Davao Super Region master plan is concerned, information reached Mindanao Sun Chronicle online edition.

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The connectivity of the Dapecol area has been accidentally discovered when road bypass systems, which have been in the works in the past, and the opportunity of having free vast government lands like the JVA area for development emerged as confluence of factors favoring the reversion of the 5,308 hectares to the government under the Duterte administration, the information of master planners said.

The Davao Super Region masterplan that would include the Dapecol JVA area for the international airport is currently in the works with a funding of P25 million from congressional funds under the initiative of Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.

These as banners made of sacks with words painted in red paint continue to hang in the bamboo fences of Tadeco and planted along the highways from Carmen to Sto. Tomas.

Common call of the tens of thousands of sack banners revolve on opposing the reversion or taking back of the Tadeco JVA area by the government.

Many banners have also words appearing to be threatening and combatant to trespassers to Dapecol area.

Surprisingly, company labor unions in Tadeco such as TUCP-ALU and Sword are the ones calling or being used to oppose the impending reversion of the JVA area to the government as Congress under the leadership of Speaker Alvarez and the executive department won in the lower level in the pending cases on JVA reversion.

The JVA area constitute more than half of Tadeco’s total production area of cavendish bananas for export. (mindanaosunchronicle.com/Cha Monforte)

“No Politics” in Bohol, Cebu Travel of Tagum’s 23 Brgy Captains Sponsored by Chiongkee

Mankilam barangay captain Rex Jasper Aala professed “there’s no politics” involved in the recent educational cum fellowship rest-and-recreation travel of all the 23 barangay captains in Tagum City to Bohol and Cebu as sponsored by Compostela Valley senior Board Member and ex-Gov. Arturo “Chiongkee” Uy.

In an interview Monday, the punong barangay of the place where the Capitol sits said that Uy’s sponsorship in their going to Panglao, Bohol and then to Plantation Bay in Lapulapu, Cebu was initiated by Apokon barangay captain Kimboy Angoy and the other barangay captains just grabbed the opportunity to join. They travelled from Oct. 21 to 24.

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When Angoy approached Uy for sponsorship, the latter was just kind-hearted and they are grateful of it, he said.

Aala said that Board Member Uy just wished there would unity of all barangay captains with Mayor Allan Rellon.

“We talked no politics there and the board member even said he’s already old and thinking of retiring,” added Aala.

A source said that Uy went to join them at the last night of their fellowship in the travel.

Uy earlier swore in as new PDP-Laban member last August 28, 2017 mass oathtaking initiated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez thus joining with the old pack of earlier PDP-Laban members in the two sister provinces which includes Mayor Rellon.

In earlier media interview, Uy quashed rumors he is training his sight for Tagum mayor in 2019 midterm elections saying it was still to early to talk politics but added he grew up, was originally identified with Tagum where he has a lot of friends and in fact spending more time these days as a board member’s time allows him to do it.

It is a public knowledge that the former Comval governor stays at his known “Alabama” residence cum business office at the heart of Tagum City.

Uy is also being talked in an early politika buzz that he is also gunning for governor in Davao del Norte.

A highly-placed source said the Chiongkee-for-governor was broached no less than by the Speaker but the ex-governor counter broached a different transfiguration: him for city mayor while his brother ex-Mayor Rey T. Uy could be also a  formidable gubernatorial bet.

Whatever, it maybe still to early to talk about politics, but politics spices up and sizzles up already the current season in the province by pundits’ many buzzes this early really. (mindanaosunchronicle.com/Cha Monforte)

“Ex-Gov. RDR Solidly Behind Speaker Alvarez”- Top Source

A top source from the Tagum legislative headquarters of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez dismissed early speculations in the rounds that the Speaker would be rivaled by former Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario.

The source said that the speculations are nothing but a wedge to sow division between the two good leaders, adding that on the contrary the former governor ” is solidly behind the able leadership of Speaker Alvarez.”

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The source said he has talked with the former governor and the latter said that he had not been interviewed by any mediamam regarding the issue and is ready to make statement soonest before the media to end the speculations and for the unity of leaders in the province.

The congressional source said in an interview Friday that “divisive speculations and lies” springing from these have got to stop as the Speaker is preocupied with and only wanted what is good for the province and the country.

As to the Speaker’s spat with Congressman Tony Boy Floirendo, “it just between them.”

The source also said that the Speaker and Gov. Anthony del Rosario are fast ironing out little kinks in his planned swearing in as new PDP-Laban member along with the handful others allied with the Liberal Party like New Corella Mayor Rhodora Alcoran and her municipal and barangay leaders.

The ex-Gov. RDR vs. Speaker Alvarez for Congress in District 1 by 2019 midterm polls is mere little talk or strange scenario being talked by early excited pundits in the rounds, as the ex-governor is registered voter in Babak, Igacos, in District 2.

But the strangest scenario among early politika buzzes this early is the possible squaring off between Gov. Anthony del Rosario and senior Board Member and ex-Gov. Chiongkee Uy, who is originally identified with Tagum City, Davao del Norte before his succesful forays in Comval politics. (mindanaosunchronicle.com/Cha Monforte)

Clandestine Homebased LPG Refilling of Butane Canisters Widespread Anywhere, Worries Tagum Inventor

EXCLUSIVE

By Cha Monforte

Clandestine home-based LPG refilling of butane canisters widespread anywhere, worries Tagum inventor

The businessman in Tagum City who successfully cracked the process of refilling empty butane canisters with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) could not imagine that one day his innovation could be massively imitated as it is now.

“They’re dicanting (the process of transferring the LPG to empty butane canisters) secretly right inside their houses using only an 11-kilogram LPG tank,” said Algerico Tabacon, who said he first cracked the process in trial-and-error experiment in 1998.

stainless butane by tagum inventor

Tabacon, erstwhile small vendor of plastic banyera wares, is now operating his own mini gas refilling plant in an outskirt of the city.

In an interview, he said it is him who made innovation on butane tin canister, which started in Tagum City and which has now proliferated in many parts of the country.

“The LPG-refilled butane canisters I first produced were just intended for friends, and then in 2008 I opened business selling these,” Tabacon recalled.

He said his innovation started with Mr. Kim, a South Korean, who first brought butane canisters and small portable stove to him.

When the purely butane content of the canisters was consumed and Kim left the city and did not come back, Tabacon fancied to refill the canisters with LPG, that is readily available in the market.

The discovery

Tinkering the the valve of the portable stove and making trial and error in inserting LPG to the empty butane canister in three days’ time in mid 1998 Tabacon found the best way to dicant it and sustain the flame from LPG, that is 60% profane and 40% butane.

But it was 10 years after when a massive influx of portable stove and 440 ml butane canisters made of tin started. The canisters, supposed to be for one-time use only or disposable, piled up but Tabacon saw a big bright business out from the canister scraps. The portable butane stove that is originally  intended for outdoor use like camping could just be used for daily cooking indoors.

Butane market

“Butane proved to be more economical than the 11-kilo LPG steel cylinder as it can boil faster due to closer pressure than the LPG, which still has to travel by the hose,” he said.

The butane like it is still now “ay tinangkil ng masa” like the owners of ambulant kwik-kwikan (fried boiled egg) tiendas around the old City Hall and karenderias in the public market who are able to cut their fuel expense by half, he recalled his first market niche before the households.

Users like butane also because also of its low-priced and thus it is easier to procure a refill in case of gas run out unlike LPG tanks that cost over P700. Currently, the retail price of butane in Tagum market is P20-P25. A brand-new purely butane can is priced P50 in stores.

To massively produce to meet increasing household market, he then negotiated and got support of Petronas to supply LPG for the mini gas refilling plant he contemplated as he got more orders and hired dealers.

But later his two top butane dealers copied his technology and competed him leading to a price decrease war starting in 2010. “Bagsakan na ng presyo”

The rest is history. His technology is being copied and individual home-based dicanters are born every now and then to join in the profitable trade that later worried the Dept. of Energy due to reports that butane canisters caused fire as negligent refillers and dicanters failed to check and replace defective, worn-out and rust-stained tin canisters.

No law

When the butane was on its threshold stage, there was no law and national policy covering it.  It is LPG that is well covered by DOE guideline while the Philippine National Standard for LPG container covered only a minimum 1-liter to 150-liter containers, which are permitted for storage and transport of LPG.

However, it was only in January 7, 2014 that the DOE issued its Department Circular 2014-01-0001, which prohibits the sale of LPG on single-trip and non-refillable containers and canisters which have been previously refilled with butane.

Tabacon as early as November 2012 proposed to the DOE that the tin butane canister be replaced with a stainless canister as he developed his own and had it registered with the Intellectual Property Office in his name, batting to make it as the Philippine National Standard.

Tabacon said he has compliance certificate and complies with the safety standard mandated under the DOE circulars and necessary permits to operate his business.

Tin canisters persist to be used these days due to high supply of empty butane canisters and it is cheap while the high demand of butane users continue even as authorities have been observed to have waned their anti-butane campaigns finding that its market consists mostly the poor.

Butane fire

Long-time butane users claimed that there are cases of small explosion or fire of butane sounding like “blab” especially when the stove is already old and worn out or the tin canister is rust-stained and worn-out leaking LPG.

But the fire hovering from the mouth of the butane can easily be put off by merely beating it with a rug or cloth. What is fire hazard is when that small fire catches the nearby flammable material, constituting human negligence, they said.

(mindanaosunchronicle.com/Cha Monforte)

Samal Island Now a PDP-Laban Country, Frees from Floirendo Political Bailiwick

Samal Island is now clearly a PDP-Laban country, freed from being part of the traditional bailiwick of the Floirendos as supermajority of the island’s elected officials from the city level down to the barangays swore in to become new members of the PDP-Laban party led by Speaker Bebot Alvarez Saturday at Babak gymnasium.

Vice Gov. Alan Dujali, earlier PDP-Laban member from being largely independent, gave his omniscient presence in the political event.

No less than the Speaker swore them all to join with their leader Mayor Al David Uy, who first joined  the administration party alone during the first mass oathtaking of new PDP-Laban members in Tagum City last Aug. 28.

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(Photo credit- via Facebook-Hur Camporedondo)

That time the mayor was dubbed as “nasunog” to mean exposed by pundits for having sworn alone without his group or winning slate. But accordingly the mayor was just humbly sports as he respected his councilors who did not go with him on do-day although they promised Uy to be with him.

That time, going to PDP-Laban where there is Alvarez who has deep bad relations with Congressman Tony Boy Floirendo is an act of not siding with the latter.

But last Saturday only four of the 14 members of the City Council and also only four of the 46 barangay captains did not join the party, a top source said.

Swearing in barangay officials (brgy. captains and kagawads) composed the mammoth red-shirt-wearing crowd in the island in what was otherwise described as a mass defection from Floirendos’ local party Kusog Baryohanon to President Duterte’s ruling party, the PDP-Laban.

The political world of Cong. Floirendo in District 2 is getting smaller each mass oathtaking even as his clanmate Governor Anthony del Rosario (Liberal Party) was earlier reported to be joining the PDP-Laban “in due time.” (mindanaosunchronicle.com/Cha Monforte)

Datu Lig-onan Successfully Pushes Tipanud Festival Ordinance for 7 Tribes in Davao del Norte

Davao del Norte Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Datu Marcial Lig-onan successfully pushed for the passage of an ordinance enshrining a provincewide Tinapud Festival every 4th week of October to celebrate, showcase and promote the culture, tradition and products of the seven tribes of the province.

The seven tribes of Davao del Norte are  Mansaka, Sama, Dibabawon, Mangguangan, Ata-Manobo, Mandaya and Kalagan.

Tipanud Festival has been celebrated in the province but it has not been enshrined in provincial legislation until Datu Lig-onan authored it. He got it approved by the provincial board last Sept. 18.

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The ordinance has funding provision for the provincial government to determine yearly exclusive of the counterpart of the three cities and eight municipalities of the province.

The Provincial Tribal Council and Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives of Davao del Norte shall jointly formulate the implementing guidelines under the supervision of the Office of the Governor.

Datu Lig-onan hails from Dibabawon tribe from San Isidro town.

He is the second IPMR in the history of the province after Datu Victor Pandian ended his three-year term.

Vice Governor Alan Dujali administered the oath of office of Datu Lig-onan before members of the provincial board in a fitting ceremony preceding the SP maiden session for the year 2017 last Jan. 9, after being endorsed by Governor Anthony del Rosario for the post.

The 69-year-old Dibabawon Datu is a high school graduate and had served as Batangas captain of Gupitan, San Isidro and is also presently the town’s municipal IPMR. (mindanaosunchronicle.com/Cha Monforte)