Banana stakeholders appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the Department of Agrarian Reform from reviewing the so-called agribusiness ventures arrangement in the industry.
AVA refers to the entrepreneurial collaboration between agrarian reform beneficiaries and private investors in the implementation of an agriculturally-related business venture involving lands distributed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
The Department of Agrarian Reform is currently reviewing existing AVAs, also known as leasebacks agreements.
Banana stakeholders said the government’s interference in live contracts was unconstitutional and would provide disincentives to local and foreign investors.
“This interference has changed the strategic direction of local corporate farms in relations to their expansion plans,” the stakeholders said
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association also expressed concern over a proposed bill in Congress that aims to regulate agribusiness ventures in areas under land reform.
House Bill 5161 proposed to make all agribusiness venture agreements subject to the approval of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council.
Stakeholders said government policy and consistency would play a very vital role in the stability of supply of banana and strategic direction of investors who were contemplating to invest in large-scale banana farming.
Aside from AVAs, the stakeholders also expressed concern on the spread of Panama disease and the high import cost and unfavorable tariff rates.
The Mindanao Development Authority said typhoon Pablo which hit the country in 2012, spread the usarium wilt TR4 Panama Disease from Compostela Valley to Agusan provinces.
The agency said more than 10,000 hectares were already infected with Panama Disease. Aside from this, the El Niño dry spell that hit Mindanao resulted in a 15 to 20-percent drop in production which eroded the competitiveness of Philippine bananas.
“The exorbitant import costs for the fruit and unfavorable tariff rates have motivated importers to look elsewhere for cheaper alternative sources,” said PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig.
Antig said the type of banana the Philippines was cultivating slaps had hefty import duties ranging from 10 to 40 percent of the value of goods.
Banana is one of the country’s top agricultural exports, second only to coconut oil. The Philippines is also the second largest banana exporter in the world, making the banana industry a consistent top dollar earner.
The banana plantations in Mindanao cover about 83,000 hectares and employ more than 330,000 workers, supporting a total of two million people.