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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Farmers’ co-op extends lease contract with banana exporter

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The Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (DAMARB-MPC) has decided to extend its lease agreement with banana exporter Marsman Estate Plantation Inc. (MEPI).

“The farmer-members have recognized the importance of having a lease contract with a stable company, which has become more significant these days as they face the challenges brought about by the pandemic that is affecting not only the country but the entire world,” Hernando Rivero, chairman of DAMARB-MPC, said.

Rivero said 697 or about 92 percent of the 762 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of MEPI agreed to extend their respective contracts of lease while the other 164 ARBs chose to become independent banana growers.

“The other 164 ARBs who chose not to lease their lands to MEPI, like the members of Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative and later Marsman Individual Farming Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative opted to acquire the land through the Voluntary Offer to Sell scheme of DAR and to become independent growers,” he said.

Rivero said the extension of the contract would insulate them from problems hounding the industry today, such as the spread of the Panama disease since they have a “fixed land rental scheme which MEPI recognizes come hell or high water.” He said small independent banana growers are “facing serious problems with Panama disease.”

“It was perhaps one of the best decisions made by the members of DAMARB-MPC because in the succeeding years the banana sector suffered severe setbacks brought about by Panama disease and the substantial drop of banana prices in the international markets,” he said.

Rivero said they issued the statement ahead of the anticipated decision by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) on DAMARB-MPC’s and MEPI’s motions for reconsideration on PARC’s Resolution 2016-30-05 dated September 12, 2016. The resolution approved the revocation of the lease agreement between MEPI and DAMARBDEVCO, which is now DAMARB-MPC.

“While the motions for reconsideration were pending resolution, MEPI and DAMARB-MPC continued to talk and amended their land lease contracts under the guidance of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Coordinating Committee [PARCCOM] in Davao del Norte,” the group said.

“In fact, the latest amendment to the contract made in December 2019 and signed by individual ARBs saw land rentals and incentives increasing from the existing P50,000 per hectare per year to P90,000—recognized as among the highest-ever land rental plus the incentive not only in the banana-growing industry but in the entire farming sector,” it added.

Rivero added that based on the 5th amendment of the contract of lease, each ARB-member is entitled to receive an annual variable production incentive beginning 2019.

“For the years 2019 and 2020, since MEPI achieved a production of more than 4,300 boxes, our ARBs received an additional P80,000 for two years,” he said.

“MEPI assumed the payment of all local taxes for our lands and for its improvements. To compare, real property taxes on the lands awarded to ARBs of other cooperatives remain delinquent because of their inability to pay the same.”

The group said MEPI donated the 799-hectare banana plantation to DAMARB-MPC in consideration of a lease-back agreement of 30 years, with corresponding land rentals to be paid by MEPI.

The lease agreement was approved by the then PARC which, at the time, was headed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on the condition that the land be subdivided and individually titled to the ARBs who could then freely choose what they want to do with their own land.

“We prefer to stick it out with MEPI, and we hope the government will not revoke our agreements with MEPI. Otherwise, the government will impoverish us instead of empower us all the more during this time of the pandemic,” Rivero said.

“With our motions for reconsideration pending resolution by the PARC, the overwhelming majority of the ARB-members of the DAMARB-MPC hope that the PARC will act in their and their dependent’s best interest, and resolve to uphold the validity of the lease contracts.”

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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