19th April 2011 by Andrew Matheson, | 11 Comments
I was surprised to see a New Zealand company playing a vital role in the Philippines’ banana export business. We do eat a lot of bananas in New Zealand. In fact we import more of them than any other fruit, and about half of New Zealand’s bananas come from the Philippines.
But New Zealand doesn’t grow bananas commercially, so apart from importing bananas — and eating them of course — we don’t have much to do with the industry. Or so I thought until my recent visit to the productive banana-growing lands around Davao.
The New Zealand company Tru-Test supplies most of the electronic scales to the banana industry in the Philippines, and this country is one of the top five banana-growing nations in the world. These scales perform a vital task that is at the heart of the relationship between growers and exporters, which I saw in action in one of the many packing houses that dot the region.
Bananas come in to the packing house by tractor-trailer units from individual and cooperative growers, and after washing and initial removal of waste the bunches are weighed. At this point ownership transfers from the growers to the exporting company and the growers are paid by weight. The benefit of electronic scales, of course, is that the appropriate growers can be coded into the scales at the time of weighing, and each grower’s total easily and reliably tallied up. The packing company and the grower can both be sure that payment is fair.
Tru-Test makes some pretty impressive pieces of weighing equipment, and during my visit to Davao I attended the Philippine launch of two new models in the EziWeigh range. With the higher-end scales data for different growers can be sent to a computer for further processing, wirelessly through Bluetooth on some models. The scales can even link to RFID (radio frequency identification) of product.
The company has been working in the Philippines for 15 years with its local partner First Philippine Scales. Tru-Test has its roots in the dairy industry in New Zealand, producing equipment to weigh animals for better management, as well as for electric fencing and milk processing. Dairy products are the biggest New Zealand export to the Philippines, and bananas are the most important Philippine export to New Zealand. It’s nice to see the two industries come together in the high-tech application of weighing technology in banana packing houses.