THE Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) is set to meet with banana importers in South Korea to discuss their proposal to cut tariffs on Philippine bananas, a business leader said.
PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig said the meeting on November 26 to December 2 will help fast-track negotiations in reducing tariff ahead of the promised bilateral Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meeting between the Philippines and South Korea.
“Murag sa akong paminaw man gud kung maghulat ta sa paghuman aning RCEP basin maabtan ta og siyam-siyam. Mao nang nakita namo ni nga pamaagi para malobby pud ang concern sa mga Korean importers (For me, it would take a long time if we were to wait for the RCEP to completed. That’s why we saw this meeting as an avenue to lobby our concern to the Korean importers),” Antig said in an interview on Monday, October 29, 2018 at PBGEA office, Davao City.
The RCEP is a free trade agreement forged by Asean member-countries with six partners including Korea, China, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Antig said there is still no definite number of Korean business delegates who will be attending the meeting.
“That’s why my stay in Korea would have to take longer in order to gather the necessary discussions with the Korean importers,” Antig said.
In a data gathered by PBGEA, South Korea prices bananas at $3.90 per kilograms (kg), making it the most expensive country when it comes to selling bananas. It is followed by Switzerland at $2.90/kg, Japan at $2.77/kg. Meanwhile India and Egypt sell bananas at $0.65/kg.
Earlier Antig said Filipino banana exporters may lose the South Korean market should the tariff remain. The East Asian nation imposes a 30 percent tariff on Philippine banana exports.
“Cheap banana imports from Central America have started to eat into the share of Philippine bananas in the Korean market and these could totally push us out of the picture by 2022 unless we get same zero-tariff treatment as they do,” Antig said.
PBGEA also said losing the Korean market will affect 32,000 workers who could lose their jobs and their over 200,000 dependents. The industry could lose revenues amounting to US$300 million while the government would lose P6.5 billion in local and national taxes.