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S. American banana growers make inroads into PHL market

DAVAO CITY — The collapse in global banana prices has opened the door for South American producers to sell their product in the Philippines, where demand remains strong due to the fruit’s perception as beneficial to the immune system.

Stephen A. Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc., said the Philippine market is now a battleground for South American growers, who are facing oversupply in their home markets.

The Philippine market has grown in importance due to weak international demand, Mr. Antig said, noting that volume exported by association members fell 12.4% year on year in September.

“The drop in total production is largely due to Panama disease as there is no concrete program implemented for its control and eradication,” he said.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, he said fresh banana exports fell 14.04% by value in the nine months to September.

He noted that a formerly reliable market like China, the biggest buyer of Philippine bananas, is starting to balance out its purchases by tapping producers in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar as part of a broader geopolitical strategy.

He said China has also been imposing extra measures to prevent the entry of COVID-19 through food imports, including a disinfection process before shipments are released to their buyers.

“Due to exposure to heat this can affect the quality of the fruit before it reaches the supermarkets,” Mr. Antig said.

He said producers have also been affected by community quarantine protocols implemented by local government units, which have disrupted the movement of delivery vehicles and personnel from farms seeking to access the ports in Davao City and Panabo City. — Maya M. Padillo

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