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PIA Press Release
2008/04/02

Pole-vaulting ruins image of RP banana industry

by JMD Abangan

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte (2 April) -- The Philippines will possibly be associated with "bad bananas" if the so-called "pole-vaulting" business of exporting bananas would go unchecked.

Gerardo Ignacio Ongkingko, Lapanday Foods Corp. executive and vice president of the Philippine Banana Growers and Growers Association (PBGEA), feared spot-buying of export bananas will ruin the credibility of the country's banana industry.

Pole-vaulting is the term being used to describe the trade of spot-buying and selling of bananas.

In this trade, banana growers knowingly breach their contracts with multi-national companies and sell their produce to spot-buyers who pitch a much higher price than what MNCs are offering.

As spot-buyers usually do not conform to quality standards of exports, international markets will be supplied with bad bananas that they will soon find coming from the Philippines.

"Kawawa tayo (Pity for us) if at the end of the day, the international market would say that bad bananas come from the Philippines," he said during the recently held meeting of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley Joint Industry Tripartite Council.

As a consequence, "the market would buy from other countries," he added.

Banana-industry players are looking at pole-vaulting as one of the major threats to the export business considered as a major dollar-earner of the country.

Ongkingko said the banana industry is annually bringing into the country about $300 million to $400 million and turning in about P160 million tax to the government.

Ongkingko called for "interlocking of arms" of the management and the labor sectors together with various government agencies to keep the country's banana industry from losing its credibility.

Meanwhile, in speaking his own mind, Ongkingko said companies have to review their contracts with banana growers and consider the possibility of raising buying prices to address pole-vaulting.

"Review the contract, everything changes. Think whether it is valid or justified to change contract," he said.

Ongkingko, on the other hand, called on banana growers to think of the repercussions of pole-vaulting and "control the desire for instant gratification."

He encouraged them to get "stronger in character" and think about their commitment to the companies they have signed contracts with.

As he wanted a much wider perspective on solving pole-vaulting, Ongkingko viewed it as important for players in the banana industry to have a much deeper dialogue to "arrive at a win-win solution." (PIA) [top]

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