AS OF the second quarter of 2018, six out of the top 10 commodities exported by Davao Region were agricultural products.
Topping the list of agricultural exports were bananas and coconuts with an export value of $219.69 million and $42.53 million, respectively.
Japan, China, United States, South Korea, and Hong Kong were the top export destinations in the same period. Japan was high up on the list, having cornered $102.64 million.
Officials said there may be an uptrend in agricultural exports after more opportunities are made available to local farmers and growers.
Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) president Arturo Milan said earlier that after their investment promotion in Singapore in 2018, Singaporean fruit and vegetable importers are looking for suppliers of avocado. The city-state currently imports its avocados from Australia.
“They were telling Davao has a lot of avocado, so they are trying to explore importing from Davao,” Milan said.
While Davao Region may be known for its export quality Cavendish bananas, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig said there is a growing demand for saba bananas.
"This is primarily because saba banana can easily grow even without thorough care and attention," Antig said.
Saba bananas can be made into banana chips, which are in demand in the United States.
Meanwhile, in a Facebook post, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said the Philippine government is working on developing the Russian market for agricultural players in the country.
"DA is now organizing a trade mission which would include stakeholders of the Agriculture and Fisheries Sector of the country to further penetrate the huge and previously unexplored market of Russia and other member countries of the Russian Federation," Piñol said.
He said they are working on the marketing of more agricultural products to Russia, including coconut oil, bananas, shrimps and others.
Will local agricultural players be able to meet the demands of foreign traders?
For the region to be able to meet the export demands, productivity has to be high. In 2017, the agriculture sector only contributed 11.2 percent to the overall gross domestic regional product.
“We have to recognize as well that despite this status of our agriculture sector, it has already rebounded from its 2016 percentage which was negative. We are concerned of the agriculture sector but it is still recovering from the El Niño in 2016. Some agriculture plantations in Davao Region are currently expanding. Currently, different industries are leveling up their roadmaps such as the cacao, coconut, and mango,” said National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Davao Regional Director Maria Lourdes Lim.
Neda has yet to release the 2018 GRDP, which would determine if the agriculture sector has grown and improved on its contribution to the regional economy.
The Davao Regional Development Plan also pointed out that there is a need to improve the productivity of the agricultural sector to meet its targets.
"The calamities, especially the typhoons and El Niño that affected the region were considered among the major factors which hampered the productivity of the sector," the plan states.
For agricultural players to tap into these new export opportunities, there is a need for the government to provide the needed support. There is a need for the government to intentionally upgrade the whole of agriculture sector from its farmers to the processes used.
For example, Antig said for the local saba banana to become more competitive in the export market, there is a need for the government to extend support like what other Asean countries are doing.
"There is a need to also improve this (saba banana) industry. The small farmers planting saba cardava need help and assistance because the demand for this variety is also big,” he said.
Antig said the saba banana industry in Thailand has a lot of support from the government and is able to expand.
Once agricultural players are able to tap these export markets, there is an assurance the economy of Davao Region will continue to flourish.