The Department of Agriculture (DA) has ordered a stop to “ pole vaulting,” an anomalous practice that has been hounding the Cavendish banana export industry.
To start off the drive, DA Secretary Proceso Alcala has ordered the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to adopt rigid controls on quarantine processes to allow only accredited exporters to ship out bananas.
An agency of the BPI, Plant Quarantine Service (PQS) in Davao City, the major loading point for export bananas in Southern and Central Mindanao, is establishing a database for the banana industry to accredit the qualified exporters of Cavendish bananas.
The database and accreditation system is being established to check the growing problem of pole-vaulting in the billion-dollar banana export industry.
Pole-vaulting occurs when a contract grower sells his produce to companies other than the one he had signed a contract with. The practice of pole-vaulting has become a serious problem that it might kill the banana export industry.
Pole-vaulting has been hounding the banana industry in the last six years. The PQS is currently inspecting small banana packing facilities in the Davao Region.
Andres Alemania, officer-in-charge of the Davao Region PQS said, “We are establishing a database to have an inventory of Cavendish farms and accredit those that meet the required standards. We already have an accreditation system for exporters, the banana growers and the banana packing facility operators.”
The Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) and the smaller Mindanao Banana Farmers and Exporters Association (MBFEA) are very supportive of this project,” he said.
Alemania explained that once the
plantations are accredited, the PQS will be able to know where the spot buyers are sourcing their bananas.
This will discourage pole vaulting because the sources of their bananas will be known, he said.
The PQS serves as the regulator for fruit and vegetable producers and exporters. Phytosanitary certificates will be issued to export commodities that are sourced from an accredited farm and packed in an accredited packinghouse. A phytosanitary certificate guarantees that commodities for export are free from pests and diseases.
“When these operators apply for phytosanitary certificates for their exports they will not indicate where they handled the bananas, instead they will give the legal accredited packing house,” Alemania said.
He admits, however, that it is not really that easy to do. There are small packing houses that mix their boxes with those who are accredited when the PQS inspectors are not around. PQS inspectors are not always present when the containers are being loaded.
Alemania is asking for support from the local authorities in solving the problem of pole-vaulting.
“I suggest the local government units (LGUs) help us about this matter because we have no police power to order these packing houses to stop their operations, it is the government that has the jurisdiction.”
There are tools that are used in the accreditation system and accreditation scheme but operators fail to follow it religiously, he added.
“As of today, we are on the second phase of our consultation on our database. The DA in Region 11 is supporting us by funding the programmer. Members of PBGEA and MBFEA can go through and access the system, so they can register.”