Banana exporters seek more government support

By CARMELITO Q. FRANCISCO, Correspondent

DAVAO City — The banana industry is asking the government to further promote Philippine bananas in key international markets, particularly Australia and South Korea and even the country’s biggest market, Japan.

In his speech on Wednesday during the Mindanao Banana Forum, Alexander N. Valoria, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, said the Philippine government has to be decisive in dealing with these markets.

“For example, our government should declare that if Philippine bananas are not allowed into Australia, we will then import our dairy needs from New Zealand, the country that welcomes Philippine bananas,” Mr. Valoria said.

The Philippines and Australia have been at odds over the latter’s strict phytosanitary measures. But both the banana industry and the Philippine government believe the real reason for this is that Australia is protecting its banana industry even when, based on Mr. Valoria’s data, the trade deficit of the Philippines with Australia has reached $700 million.

Mr. Valoria said Philippine officials must also negotiate with their South Korean counterparts considering that South Korea imposes a 30% tariff on Philippine bananas while collecting only 5% on bananas from Peru.

He lamented that while the situation favors the country’s competitors, the Philippine trade deficit with South Korea is at $2 billion.
Even the country’s share in the Japanese market, which imports about 90% of Philippine bananas, can still be maximized, said the executive of the Floirendo-owned Tagum Agricultural Development Co.

Mr. Valoria said it was ironic that the Philippines has reduced its import duties on Japanese goods, while import tariffs on Philippine bananas are still between 10-20%.

One bright spot in the industry, Mr. Valoria said, is the possibility of Philippine bananas entering the American market. Government representatives, among them Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, have confirmed that by next year, Americans would be buying Philippine bananas.

Mr. Valoria also believed that both the Chinese and Iranian markets will soon return. Chinese importers will be encouraged to buy Philippine produce considering the Philippines’ proximity to China. “[The Chinese] market will once again be open to Philippine bananas as we already see it slowly opening,” he said.

Early this year, the Chinese government imposed stringent measures on Philippine bananas after phytosanitary officials claimed to have found insects in a banana shipment.

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