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Sultan Kudarat town to be newest source of banana exports

May 5, 2008 12:48am

BAGUMBAYAN, Sultan Kudarat — This small town in Sultan Kudarat that is known for its gold and copper deposits could soon be Central Mindanao’s new source for export-quality banana.

But while banana plantations are viewed for their job generation potential, some residents are worried of repercussions on their health and the other crops they are cultivating.

Super Green Agricultural Developers Corp. (Sugadco) is expected to develop 256 hectares of banana plantation in Barangay Kinayao in Bagumbayan town starting this month. Five other barangays in the town are expected to be developed for such plantations, namely: Bai Saripinang, Daguma, Kapaya, Tuka and Busok.

Sugadco, which has a marketing contract agreement with Abbar & Zainy Tropical Exports, Inc., a Davao City-based company that exports banana, pineapple and papaya to Middle East countries, will pay landowners P12,000 per hectare annually under a five-year rent contract.

Ernesto A. Cazar, barangay captain of Kinayao is optimistic the banana plantation can generate jobs for the residents of the village. Since most of the people there do not have their own lands, planting and harvesting jobs would mean a lot, he said.

Living in a neighboring town is Arnie C. Pama who has been jobless at a time of rising prices of rice and other basic goods. He is hopeful that the banana plantation in Bagum-bayan would land him a job. "Okay na rin, kesa walang trabaho [It’s better than having no job at all]," he said.

Unknown to him, residents of the host village will be prioritized when it comes to giving jobs. Amid slight hesitations about the banana plantation, Mr. Cazar had asked the management to prioritize the residents of Kinayao as incentive for allowing the banana plantation in the barangay.

Mr. Cazar said that, like many residents, he is concerned about the repercussions to health, since such plantations use a lot of chemicals. Communities near the vast banana plantations in Davao Region have complained of the aerial spraying practice in the area, and Mr. Cazar said he does not want the same thing to happen to them.

"Problema din ang palay namin [I am also worried for our palay]," Mr. Cazar said in a phone interview, fearing that agrochemicals used in the banana plantation could drift to and damage his rice farm.

But at least it’s better and safer than mining, Mr. Cazar said.

Sugadco Chief Executive Anacleto M. Pedrosa, Jr., has assured residents in various assemblies that the banana plantation will have no such effect.

Norma F. Rosal, who owns land in Barangay Bai Saripinang, said that she looks forward to have her property rented to the banana plantation developer, since her land is not ideal for rice farming. — Helengrace C. Garcia, BusinessWorld
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