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Rough Cuts: The pitiful plight of small coconut farmers

Last Friday the campaign period of candidates for local government elective positions started rolling with a bang.Yes, with a BANG! This is because by the time people woke up that day the city got splattered with all kinds and all forms of visible campaign materials. Posters both in the expensive but durable tarpaulin and plain sheets of paper are pasted all over the city regardless of whether these are in or out of the designated areas by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

In the morning of last Friday we saw every available space along roadsides, and in certain areas, even fences of private residences, plastered with campaign posters of these and those candidates. Coupled with the campaign materials of senatorial and partylist bets, walls and fences are now a maze of colors, slogans and promises contained on the candidates’ posters.

We have noted though that in the city there are partylist groups that seem to have more financial resources based on the number of posters put up along highways and roadsides even in the remotest barangays.

Gauging from the persons on their posters we can easily deduce that the more exposed of the partylist groups are creations of political personalities who are themselves running in the coming May 13 elections.

Some of the partylist endorsers are senatorial and congressional candidates, influential local government executives, and even top business leaders in the country.

Indeed we cannot help but doubt the relevance of congressmen belonging to existing political party. Supposedly, they are elected by the Filipino people to represent them in the country’s lawmaking body. Yet, the framers of the 1987 Constitution provided for the creation of congressional slots to represent sectors of the population that claim to be not represented in Congress.

Somehow, we see this constitutional provision as a recognition that the congressmen belonging to existing legitimate parties have been remiss of their sworn responsibilities; that they only represent the interests of sectors they want to be identified with.

But the politicians also found this provision an opportunity to perpetuate their hold in power and even expand their influence. These politicians are the ones creating the partylist groups that suit their personal motives.

That is why we now see very clearly which partylist groups are in strong competition in the occupation of spaces for their campaign paraphernalia. Their backers have bottomless pockets.

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We might be branded as “sira’ng plaka” for repeatedly bringing this issue out in our column. But having owned a little coconut farm ourselves we feel obligated to provide a vehicle to carry the voices of many small coconut farmers in the city and the rest of the Davao Region who are now reeling from the very low price of coconut at the farm gate.

Yes, since less than a year ago the buying price of whole nuts per kilo has been on a continued down flow. During the first quarter of 2018 coconut farmers were still enjoying a relatively higher buying price of between P8 to P9 per kilo of whole nuts.  But in the succeeding months the buying price plummeted. The last time we harvested our coconut the farm gate price was already at a low of P3.50 per kilo. What is worse, the cost of labor in harvesting has also gone up. Coconut harvesters are now charging P10 per tree, or some on a 70-30 sharing ratio. That is, for every 100 coconut fruit dropped down only 70 go to the farm owner; the 30 will accrue to the harvesters. Coco dehuskers on the other hand, now demand P500 for every one thousand coconut unhusked. Even those who gather the coconut fruits from where they are dropped and transfer them to where these are unhusked have also increased their rates.

But even as this down trend of the buying price continues unabated, there is no letup in the increase of prices of coconut by-products like cooking oil, soap and several others.

We have no doubt this predicament of the coconut farmers are no secret to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), the agency overseeing the country’s coconut industry.  However, we cannot understand why the agency seems deaf and totally uncaring.

We have not heard of any intervention by the PCA to help the coconut farmers improve their condition. In fact the office is not even looking into the open cartelization of the coconut buying and trading by big-time Davao merchants.

Thus, it is not anymore surprising that the small coconut farmers have no other buyers to turn to since these traders communicate with each other and agree that no one among them offers higher buying prices.

When is the PCA going to wake up? When the small coconut farmers are already crawling on the soil of their small farms?

Pagtrabaho pud mo oy!

 

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