Include farmers’ subsistence loan in banana industry rehab fund–PBGEA

Strong winds brought by Typhoon Pablo on Tuesday destroy hundreds of hectares of banana plantations in Compostela town, Compostela Valley Province. Mindanews Photo by Ruby Thursday More
Strong winds brought by Typhoon Pablo (Bopha)  on December 4, 2012 destroy hundreds of hectares of banana plantations in Compostela town, Compostela Valley Province. Mindanews File Photo by Ruby Thursday More

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 January)–The rehabilitation package to be loaned out to banana farmers in areas affected by typhoon Pablo should include funds for their subsistence, Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), said Wednesday.

For a hectare (ha) of banana, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) would provide a rehabilitation loan package of P430,000, which is an insufficient amount, he said.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala reportedly said the LBP has allotted funds amounting to at least P2.1 billion to rehabilitate banana farms in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

Speaking at the Club 888 media forum at The Marco Polo Davao, Antig pegged the rehabilitation cost—excluding infrastructures such as packing houses, irrigation system and cable way—at about P600,000 per ha.

Antig noted that banana farmers also need financial assistance for their subsistence, especially for food consumption, education of their children, electricity and water, among other daily needs.

With the rehabilitation of cavendish banana farms to take six months to a year, this would basically left the farmers dependent on the industry without a major source of income in that duration, he said.

They would be vulnerable to loan sharks, locally known as “five-six,” that charge a monthly interest rate of at least 10 percent, Antig said.

He said that the long processing of up to six months discourages small farmers to seek loans from mainstream financial institutions.

But Antig said the LBP is open to design a package for a borrower or group of banana farmers to alleviate their economic burden.

Rene Dalayon, president and executive director of the Federation of Banana Cooperatives in Davao (FEDCO), said none of their members affected by Pablo has so far loaned from the LBP, although it is being worked out.

Typhoon Pablo damaged at least P8 billion or almost 14,000 ha of cavendish banana in Region XI under the PBGEA, while FEDCO members lost an estimated banana volume of 770,000 boxes.

Antig said some 1.6 million people are depending on the banana industry in the Davao region. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)