Vietnam and other banana-producing countries in Asia are threatening to grab the Philippines’ dominant status as the largest exporter of fresh bananas in the region, an industry group said over the weekend.
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association Inc. said while banana remained the country’s top fresh fruit export, industry members were wary they would eventually lose the market share.
PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig said the government should be aggressive in negotiating for reduced tariffs in countries where the Philippines exports its bananas.
“There is a need for a thorough review of our free trade agreements and assess our trading partners’ fulfillment of their commitments to ensure that we are at an outstanding edge in the trading game; in our case, the elimination or reduction of tariffs,” Antig said.
“Production costs are increasing every year to maintain volume and quality, so much so that some multinationals are already thinking about relocating to other countries which have investor friendly policies,” Antig said.
Antig said some PBGEA members were even getting invitations to expand and develop banana plantations in Vietnam.
Currently, Philippine cavendish is still under the exclusion list of the country’s trading partners.
“That means our buyers have to pay import duties ranging from 40 to 10 percent of the value of the goods. This poses as a stringent constraint and encourages our importers to get fresh bananas from our competitors at lower importation costs,” Antig said.
He said the Philippines remained as the dominant supplier of fresh bananas to Japan, South Korea, China and New Zealand but Vietnam, Indonesia, Mozambique and Costa Rica were slowly penetrating these markets.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed exports of fresh bananas plummeted 69 percent in July to $31.3 million from $101.8 million a year ago. Shipments of fresh bananas in the first seven months also tumbled 65.3 percent to $273 million from $786 million in the same period last year.
Banana exports in 2014 amounted to $1.14 billion, up by 18 percent from $963 million in 2013, data showed.
PBGEA earlier asked the government to review the concessions in the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and secure the country’s position in the Japanese market.
PBGEA said more Japanese importers had struck deals with suppliers in Mozambique, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Indonesia, reducing Japan’s dependence on the Philippines.
Meanwhile, PBGEA said the opening of Iran market, after the United Nations Security Council voted to lift the trade sanctions against Tehran, could help lift banana exports.