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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Talks to lift ban on banana exports 'underway'

THE Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) is expected to hold talks with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)'s Plant Quarantine Service to discuss possible measures in a bid to lift the suspension of some banana exporters in Mindanao by Chibese government.

At present, five banana companies have been suspended to export bananas to China due to phytosanitary issues since 2012.

One of the suspended companies is a PBGEA member.

Stephen A. Antig, PBGEA executive director, said if the suspension continues, total ban of Philippine fresh banana products in China might happen.

“We will write to PQS again and ask them if it is possible for the suspended companies to meet with the quarantine office of China, have a face to face communication and explain why it happened, how it happened and what they are going to do to resolve the issue, that is the easiest way of negotiating,” he said.

He explained that negotiating with the Chinese government on this issue is a government-to-government transaction.

In 2012, when the suspension started, China after observing that there were allegedly mealy bugs in the fruit shipments from the Philippines immediately imposed strict phytosanitary measures.

With this, the BPI issued a memorandum in 2012 underscoring that exportation of fruits and vegetables shall only be allowed if the exporting firm is accredited and exporters is prohibited to source fruits and vegetables from non-accredited growers and traders. A revised protocol for the export of fresh bananas and fresh pineapple fruits was also issued to address phytosanitary issues.

Antig added that, originally China’s plan was to ban all the Philippine bananas but with the DA and private sectors and China’s conversation they were able to negotiate that the suspension will only be implemented on a case to case basis per exporting company.

He also pointed out that apart from the phytosanitary issues, the banana players suspected that territorial dispute over West Philippine Sea/South China Sea is also a factor causing the continued suspension imposed by China.

For the member company of PBGEA, which is still suspended by the China, a total of 20 to 25 percent of the total production pegged at six to seven million boxes per year was lost due to suspension order.

“China is one of the most promising export destinations of bananas even though it is by itself a banana producing country, this is because of their big population so they need to import, and considering that banana is the cheapest fruit in the market. Also China is re-exporting what they imported from different countries,” Antig said.

He shared that in 2010 to 2012, before the issues sprouted, export to China grew by 20 to 30 percent per annum.

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