Banana exports up 41%; industry still lobbying to lower S. Korea tariffs

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BANANA exports totaled 3.593 million metric tons (MT) in the first 10 months of 2019, up nearly 41% from a year earlier, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

According to preliminary PSA data, banana exports rose 40.79% year-on-year. In October, exports totaled 408,060 MT.

The 10-month total was close to the record 3.631 million MT in the same period of 2014.

Top markets for Philippine bananas include Japan, China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. China accounted for the largest share with 1.288 million MT, up 42%, year-on-year. Japan took in 1.169 million MT, up 47, year-on-year, and South Korea 461,736 MT, up 40% year-on-year.

Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) Executive Director Stephen A. Antig said for the major plantation firms which his organization represents, exports are actually on a downtrend year-on-year.

“In the case of the PBGEA members, volume for the last 9 months decreased by 8% compared to that of 2018. If the trend continues, total exports might be just about 110 million boxes by the end of the year. All told, this is not a good year for the industry,” he said in an e-mailed response, and noted that 110 million boxes is equivalent to 1.4 million MT, solely of the Cavendish variety. Top markets are Japan, South Korea, China, the Middle East, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mongolia and the United States.

He said the industry is beset by climate change, pests and diseases, drought, and flooding.

Banana growers are also pushing the government to intervene to lower South Korean and Japanese tariffs, which risk eroding the Philippines’ market share in those countries.

Philippine banana exports are levied a 30% tariff by South Korea and 8% to 18% by Japan. The industry’s target tariff for South Korea is 5% at most, a level it reckons will help the industry grow. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang