THE PILIPINO Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) said that it is in talks with its buyers in South Korea to lobby Seoul to reach a bilateral agreement with the Philippines that allows for tax-free imports of Philippine bananas, from 30% currently.
“We only want a level playing field in South Korea, Japan and other markets where our bananas are taxed heavily. We have long been urging our government officials to be more vigorous in seeking fair treatment for our banana exports. But it seems their efforts are not enough so we are also doing our part by talking to our business counterparts and foreign officials as well before we lose our share in these markets,” PBGEA executive director Stephen A. Antig said in a statement.
Mr. Antig is set to go to South Korea for the discussions with stakeholders end-November then to Japan for a similar discussion with their business partners there.
Another PBGEA team is preparing to go to Canberra on Nov. 27 to meet with the Australian government in a bid to open up that market during lean months that would not compete with the Australian banana cop.
“The high import tariffs remain the sector’s most pressing concern. Something has to happen soon, which is why we are taking the initiative ourselves to talk to our business partners and government officials overseas to present our case for a more favorable treatment for Philippine bananas,” PBGEA president Victor S. Mercado said.
Alberto F. Bacani, PBGEA chairman, said that other countries tend to compete with the Philippines by negotiating lower tariffs and subsidized freight rates.
“Unfortunately, we are facing so many challenges in the Philippines, while other banana-producing countries are doing everything to take away our markets from us by reducing prices through means like negotiating for reduced duties and subsidizing freight rates,” Mr. Bacani said.
“We, as an industry, should cooperate to ensure that we do not price ourselves out of the market. Our government also should take notice of this fact and find means to help the local banana industry survive and thrive amidst intense world competition and political hurdles,” Mr. Bacani added.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that fresh bananas were a top-four export in September, behind on electronics products, machinery and transport equipment, and other manufactured goods.
PSA data showed that fresh bananas exported in September 2018 urged 189.2% to $174.72 million from the previous year’s $60.42 million.
The PSA also reported on Monday that agricultural exports rose 27.6% to $6.58 billion in 2017. Agricultural imports meanwhile came in at $11.76 billion, up 4%.
According to PSA, the Philippines’ major trading partners, Japan and the European Union (EU) posted trade surpluses of $756.10 million and $265.76 million respectively in 2017.
Edible fruits and nuts, and peel of citrus fruits or melon topped the country’s list of commodities exported, rising 38.9% to $1.76 billion in 2017.
Asked for comment on the export and import ratio, Rolando T. Dy, University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) Center for Food and Agribusiness executive director and professor said: “This is a good sign but Philippines agri export is still barely one fourth of Malaysia and Vietnam and one sixth of Thailand and Vietnam.”
Mr. Dy noted that there is a “disproportionate focus on rice self-sufficiency (affecting) trade and high rural poverty of 30%.”
“The Philippines has only $2 billion worth of exports of coconuts and bananas,” he added. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio