Bananas? Worry more about copra, Davao chamber chair says

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 May) –   So much attention has been given to the banana industry due to the crisis in the China market but the coconut industry is more worrisome with the drop in prices of copra from a high of about P40 per kilo in early January to P24 a kilo in Davao City as of Friday, the chairman of the board of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. said

Sebastian Angliongto, DCCCII board chair and honorary life chair, told a joint forum of the DCCCII and Mindanao Business Council on Friday said big companies are affected in the banana industry but the drop in prices of copra affects thousands of coconut farmers.

A farmer sorts coconut at his farm in Mati, Davao Oriental before carving out the meat for copra, which is a raw material in producing coconut oil. Mindanews File Photo by Keith BacongcoHe said  if the price of copra is P24 a kilo in Davao City, it should be very much less in the far-flung areas.  In Mati, Davao Oriental, the price per kilo is P22; in Maitum, Sarangani, the price is between P18 and P20; in Alabel town also in Sarangani, the price is around P20 per kilo while in Glan the price is P21.50. In Basilan,  P22.

Angliongto warned the drop in copra price will mean “a lot of dropouts” as parents will no longer be able to afford to send their children to school

“The farmers who are most affected are the agrarian reform beneficiaries who were given five hectares each. How will their family carry on their daily needs with higher cost of purchasing consumer products. Much worse, with the increase of tuition fees this June opening of the schools, I am sure many of their children will drop out,” Angliongto earlier said in an e-mail to MindaNews.

Mindanao, he said, accounts for 62% of the country’s coconut production, 20% of that from the Davao region.

He said there was a Coconut Summit in Mati City on May 10 and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) was  encouraging coconut farmers to rehabilate their farms by securing free coconut seedlings from their office with a P30 incentive per seedling planted.

“Paano mag-rehabiltate, patay na ang kalabaw?”  (How can they rehabilitate given their present situation), he asked.

“ Yet the government is giving much concern on the banana export problem to China which are mostly produced by big companies particularly the multinational companies and not much concern on the plight of the small coco farmers. Is this not contrary to the poverty alleviation program of this administration? “ he asked.

Angliongto asked if government will explore “extracting some fund from the Coco levy fund to temporarily subsidize lett’s say P10 per kilo on top of the prevailing market price” of copra and “lift the subsidy once the world price of copra will regain its viable market price. “

Based on experience, he said, when prices of copra are down,  “peace and security concerns, including insurgency, are up.”

Big companies and the multinational corporations account for 60% of the industry while the remaining 40% are small growers.

Stephen Antig, President of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) told MindaNews  that while the blocking of Philippine bananas into China is not only affecting the big firms but the small growers.

“The MNCs, though also hurting, can take care of themselves. The problem is with the small growers who are mostly agrarian reform beneficiaries and cooperatives,” he said.

Antig said that if the situation does not improve, “then we will see a lot of dropouts.”

He noted that the upswing in copra prices “is very common” but “this is the first time something of this proportion has happened with our China market.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)