THE Philippines has reiterated its request to Japan to lower tariff imposed on Philippine bananas, the Agriculture department said.

“I would like to request your support for the preferential tariff rate of 0% for Philippine bananas in Japan, which currently imposes 18% tariff during the winter season and 8% during the summer,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar was quoted as saying in a statement. The Philippines and Japan held a bilateral meetings on the matter on Oct. 16.

Japan Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Shinya Fujiki said he wishes to discuss the matter in line with the on-going review of the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) estimates that overall banana exports in the eight months to August grew 46.6% to $1.258 billion. Japan was the largest market for Philippine bananas between 1991 and 2017. China took over the top spot in 2018, buying 1.1 million tons that year.

Asked to comment, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) Executive Director Stephen A. Antig said that the group is still waiting for updates from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regarding the request to reduce tariffs on Philippine bananas exported to Japan. He also said that the group hopes that Japan will open negotiations on the matter.

“We hope that the Japanese government will be open to negotiate,” he said in an e-mail.

“If the other banana producing countries especially the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members fully develop their banana industry and get better tariff terms then we can lose the Japan market, and this will have disastrous effects on our export revenue,” he added. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang