THE Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) said there will be a tentative bilateral negotiation this year that will help fasten negotiations to lower or eliminate tariff on banana exports to South Korea.
PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig told SunStar Davao that despite being the top supplier of bananas in South Korea, the high import tariffs remain the sector’s most pressing concern especially that it has imposed zero tariffs for some countries.
Bananas from the country exported to South Korea are currently imposed with 30 percent tariff.
In a meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on April 12, it was announced that the Korean Minister of Trade will be coming to the Philippines to make a ceremonial announcement that the two governments will be engaging in a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
“All these are still tentative but this is something that should be considered. Hopefully, if this will push through, mas mapapabilis yung tariff negotiations natin with South Korea,” Antig said.
Antig said if the tariff will be eliminated or if not, reduced, the volume of bananas exported to Korea will surely increase.
Another country that banana exporters are trying to negotiate to lower or eliminate tariffs is Japan, however, there was no specific schedule for negotiations.
Antig said Japan is still a major market for bananas from the Philippines.
He said the Philippines cannot afford to lose Japan and Korea markets since around 70 percent of Dole’s production, while 60 percent of Unifrutti’s volume goes to the two markets. Dole and Unifrutti are the country’s largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and fresh cut flowers.
“The competition is now country to country, no longer company versus company. The multinational companies who are players in the industry can source products from other countries to take advantage of favorable tariffs, but when that happens, it will be the Philippines that will lose out,” Antig said.