Banana industry fears loss of China trade over Scarborough rowBy Dennis Jay Santos
DAVAO CITY — Banana industry leaders here fear the political tension between the Philippines and China over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal may eventually take a toll on the country’s multimillion-dollar banana industry.
Stephen Antig, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (Pbgea), said that China, the biggest buyer of Philippine Cavendish bananas, recently imposed tighter rules on incoming banana shipments.
China has reportedly denied that the stricter rules had anything to do with the current military standoff over the shoal between the two countries but banana industry leaders remain jittery.
A shipload of bananas from the Philippines was recently rejected by China because it reportedly failed quarantine tests, Antig said.
The rejection, he added, sent jitters through the banana industry in Mindanao, which is made up of about 18 companies, because it was “unusual.”
The Philippines has been exporting Cavendish there for over a decade now, he said.
Antig would not divulge the name of the company that sent the rejected bananas but said that other companies in Mindanao used the most advanced high-end technology to process their products.
“We have been very careful in shipping bananas to China and seeing to it that there is no problem,” he said.
“We recently held a meeting and shared the same apprehension that we may lose the valuable market in China as a result of the dispute over the shoal,” Antig said.
He said the Department of Trade and Industry had reportedly asked Chinese authorities if there were plans to stop imports from the Philippines.
The answer was “it’s not yet happening,” Antig said.
“But anything can happen and we are keeping a close watch,” he added.
Moved only now
While China has the right to impose stricter quarantine controls, Antig said they could not but note that the move came in the wake of the shoal dispute.
“It is only now that they have become stricter or more stringent,” he said.
China is now the largest consumer of Philippine Cavendish bananas. Of the estimated 75 million boxes that banana companies shop overseas each year, “more than half goes to China,” according to Antig. ” [It’s] much bigger than Japan,” he added.
Antig believes that if the Philippines loses the China banana market, it would trigger the economic downfall of the banana industry.
The Panatag Shoal issue may be viewed as political but it could have a devastating effect on trade relations between the country and China, Antig said.
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