Bigger profit for banana farmers sans aerial spraying–study

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/01 June)—Small banana growers in the Davao region will earn more income if banana plantations will shift from aerial to ground spraying, results of a study commissioned by the Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) showed.

IDIS said the study–“Financial Assessment of Shifting from Aerial to Ground Spray in Banana Plantations in Davao Region” conducted by Anabeth San Gregorio in 2011–found that a shift from aerial to ground spraying resulted “to an increase in potential gross profit from P116,000 to P138,200 per hectare per year, or an incremental profit of P22,200” for every small banana farmer.

“This is because small farmers, who are contracted by the plantations to grow Cavendish bananas, no longer have to pay for the aerial spraying which is being administered by the banana companies,” Ann Fuertes, IDIS executive director, said in a statement on Friday.

“Banana companies charge their operation costs for aerial spraying to the individual accounts of each banana farmer that they contract to grow bananas. But because of the high cost of the aerial spraying operations, these small farmers end up with a negative income because their profit from the sale of the crop has been eaten up by the cost of aerial spraying,” she added.

In 2007, the local government of Davao City, which reportedly hosts 5,000 hectares of banana plantations, approved an ordinance banning aerial spraying due to health and environmental reasons.

The banana industry group Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) claimed the ban was unconstitutional and challenged the decision of the local government. The Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling on the case.

In Davao City, MindaNews sought Stephen Antig, PBGEA president, for comment and he said that “for small areas, the mode of delivery has always been manual spraying.”

“If the small areas are contiguous then they sometimes avail of air spraying. As to whether it is cheaper if they manually spray will depend on how they do the spraying. From experience and expert opinions, you actually use more inputs when manually spraying,” he said.

Antig said he would give additional comments after analyzing the figures cited by the IDIS study

On the average, aerial spraying operations cost P68,600 per hectare per year for large plantations. In the present practice in which this cost is charged against the account of small farmer, the farmer will end up paying a total estimated average of P73,800 per hectare per year, according to the study.

But if ground spraying is adopted, the small farmer will only spend about P53,600 per hectare per year, translating to savings of P20,200 per hectare per year, it added.

Understandably, large plantations “prefer aerial spraying because shifting to ground spraying will impose an additional P28,700 per hectare per year,” the Davao City-based IDIS said.

The study, which has yet to be published, added that from an average of P68,600 per hectare per year, it will increase to P97,300 per hectare per year with the use of ground spray.

This is because additional infrastructure development is needed in order to maximize the results of the ground spraying method, IDIS said, noting the study identified the need for additional road networks and trucks as well as additional labor.

However , Fuertes said that this does not mean that shifting to manual spraying will bankrupt plantation companies.

“Overall, despite the potential losses that companies may incur, they will still have an acceptable profit margin at the end of every harvest,” she said.

The IDIS statement noted that “banana contract growers will benefit more from the shift and plantation companies will be able to absorb the additional costs that manual spraying will entail.” (MindaNews)