By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY — The Philippines continues to dominate in Japan for the supply of cavendish bananas with a market share of 80%, as banana exports recorded a 7% growth to 679,967 metric tons (MT) from January to May 2018 from 634,191 MT recorded of the same period last year, according to Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig.
But Antig expressed concern that this might reduce following the entry of new banana players that are starting to eat into the Philippines’ market share in Japan as the Japanese government has eased the tariff rates against their exportable bananas.
Antig welcomed the ongoing review of the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership (PJEPA) under which the Filipino trade negotiators claimed they have been pressing their Japanese counterparts to work on the elimination of the tariff.
“Very good. It is about time that that banana is given importance considering its contribution to the economy,” he added. But he expressed fears that tariff issues on bananas and other tropical fruits from the Philippines will again “relegated to the bottom rung of the agenda and then have it rescheduled to another date.”
Banana exporters complained that Japan levies hefty tariff rates – 8% during summer and a maximum of 18% during winter while Colombia, Vietnam, and countries in Central America will have zero tariffs over the next three years.
Mindanao Banana Farmers & Exporters Association, Inc. (MBFEAI) chairperson Evelyn I. Magno called on the government to work on lifting the tariff on bananas as the competition with other banana-producing countries is getting tighter.
She said Filipino farmers will not only be confronted by pests and diseases but also market competition in Japan, the Philippines’ most stable export market for cavendish bananas.
“If we cannot remove the tariff, we will die. We will be the least preferred. If we don’t push on the removal of tariff, diseases would not only be our problem. We’ve long been lobbying for it but until now, it’s not being addressed, there is still no agreement,” she said.
According to a report of the Philippine Statistics Authority published on July 10, 2018, fresh bananas were the fifth top export of the country valued at $146.41 million and a 2.5 percent share to the total export receipts in May 2018.