The Philippines is looking at other potential buyers for bananas.
This, after President Benigno Aquino III directed the Department of Agriculture (DA) to find other export markets for the Philippines’ Cavendish bananas after China imposed more stringent quarantine requirements on the fruit.
“We have to look for other export markets. It is important to diversify to ensure our hands are not tied to the decision of just one country,” the President said amid speculation that China imposed stricter rules on Philippine bananas amid its territorial dispute over the Scarborough Shoal.
Agriculture Secretary Proseso Alcala, at the sidelines of his dialogue with farmers in the region on Tuesday, said they are looking at Singapore, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Korea, North Asia, Middle East countries, Europe and the United States for expansion of the country’s banana exports.
China is the country’s second-largest banana market after Japan with total shipments worth US$ 470.96 million last year.
Bananas are also the Philippines’ second-largest agricultural commodity export after coconuts.
Reports said some 150 containers were refused entry by Chinese quarantine personnel, citing alleged “scale” insect infestation.
The refusal has cost Philippine banana growers at least US$ 760,000 in rotting produce.
Alcala, however, said the country has no scale insect problem.
But just the same, he said he will be sending a technical team to be led by Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) director Clarito Barronto to China to inspect the remaining 89 containers, alongside Chinese quarantine officials.
“This week po mayroong isang team tayo na papupuntahin sa China at magdadala po sila ng credential para kaharap sila (Chinese) sa pagbubukas ng ating mga produkto sa exports. Pero, at the same time, kasama ang imbitasyon naman natin sa kanila para pumunta ang delegasyon dito at i-check po nila ‘yung protocol natin. Ang importante po dito mai-prove natin na ang mga produktong iniluluwas hindi lang po sa China kundi sa ibang bansa man ay wala pong peste,” the DA chief noted.
“We are now working closely with China to resolve this regulatory issue,” he added.