PH banana growers see rebound in 2014
TAGUM CITY—The country’s banana growers are optimistic that the multi-billion-peso industry will bounce back next year from the heavy losses it suffered following last year’s typhoon that wiped out some 14,000 hectares of banana plantations in southern Mindanao.
Exports are expected to reach P74 billion with Russia and the United States considered potential markets, said Stephen Antig, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA).
Southern Mindanao, which comprises the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, accounts for a total of 48,535 hectares of Cavendish banana plantations, or more than half of the country’s 82, 412 ha. planted to bananas.
It employs about 200,000 or over half of the total workforce of 329,648.
At least 14,600 hectares of Cavendish banana plantations in the Davao Region were destroyed when Typhoon “Pablo” struck on Dec. 4, 2012, Antig told reporters in a press conference at Big 8 Corporate Hotel here last week.
He pegged industry losses, mostly suffered by small growers, at over P5 billion.
“As of now, just less than half of the total area has been rehabilitated,” Antig said.
Some farmers have even abandoned their plantations.
“Small growers are having difficulty in getting their hands on resources they can use to start again. They could not easily avail themselves of loans from banks, which normally impose six to eight percent interest aside from collateral requirements,” he said.
Astig said that aside from China and Iran, banana traders explored other international markets during several outbound business missions last year.
“We’re looking at Russia and other former Soviet republics, such as Kazahkstan, as huge markets,” he said.
He reported that at least 5 million boxes of Philippine bananas were shipped to Mongolia and Russia via the Far East port city of Vladivostok in 2011.
Last month, seven metric tons of Cavendish bananas from Bukidnon entered the US market, he said.
“We should be able to compete with Ecuador because our bananas have more quality and taste better,” Antig said.
He also pointed out that the 1.3 million Filipinos living in California represented a big market.
The Philippines, according to Antig, is second to the South American republic, in terms of exporting bananas.
The opening of new markets would lessen the impact to the industry of the international foreign exchange embargo on Iran, Astig said.
He noted that recent developments affecting relations between Washington and Tehran following high-profile visits to the United States by Iranian leaders “could improve the situation” as far the Philippine banana industry is concerned.
Moreover, the official said, the industry was trying to recover from losses following trade restrictions imposed by China, a major Asian market, due to “phyto-sanitary issues.”
Antig cautioned that several problems, such as pest infestations and climate change, persisted.
If left unchecked, these could kill the multibillion-peso industry.
The industry generated about $768 million of revenues in 2011, he said.
“That would have surpassed $1 billion if not for the crises,” he added, referring to the problems in the Iranian and Chinese markets.
The Department of Agriculture said the Philippines was able to export some 2.8 million metric tons (MT) of bananas as of the third quarter of 2012 before Pablo came, surpassing the 2 million MT shipped out in the entire 2011.
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