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Philippines: Banana growers want to use ACEF for loans

Reprisentatives of the banana industry have asked the national government to let them use the Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund in paying the bad loans banana growers.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap last week assured the industry leaders that he will study the proposal as he asked the sector representatives to give him at least the ballpark figure of how much the industry needs to pay the debt. Industry representatives have yet to give Yap the amount they wanted out of the fund.

Industry representatives complained that banana exporters have been paying higher interest loans while their profits have been reducing because of the strengthening peso.

They added that they have also brought to the attention of the national government their complaint. But “the tenor of their (national government) reply is it really wants the peso to appreciate,” said Romeo Garcia, a banana grower based in Davao del Sur told Yap during the closing ceremony of the Mindanao Food Congress. “We are in a tight situation,” Garcia said.

They told the secretary that with the fund, which is intended to prepare the agriculture sector cope with global competition, they can pay

Yap made the commitment as banana industry representatives asked him how his office could help them cushion the impact of the strengthening peso on their profitability.

Their loans interest free as it can be lent to agriculture without or with minimal interest.

At first, industry representatives asked Yap to persuade the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to intervene in the peso strengthening. But the secretary pointed out that the government does not usually intervene in the currency market.

“But that does not change the fact that you have a problem,” he told them, adding that the government has already done something to help exporters cope with the rising peso by waiving their fees to the amount of P33 million between 2006 and 2007.

Aside from that, the secretary also vowed to help them with technical support. “We can help you improve your competitiveness,” he said, adding that the department will provide mechanisms to enhance productivity of banana growers in the region.

Banana growers, in the city, on the other hand, have complained about the implementation of the city government of the controversial aerial spraying ban ordinance. Because of this, the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters brought the issue to the Regional Trial Court by questioning the legality of the ordinance.

Although it has yet to resolve the legality of the local law, the Regional Trial Court, through Branch 17 Judge Renato Fuentes, imposed a three-month preliminary injunction on the law that will end on September 23.

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