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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

PHL bananas still sagging on high costs, pests

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THE Philippines’s banana exports extended its sagging trend as total volume last year plunged to a six-year low of 2.273 million metric tons (MMT) as producers grappled with production woes from high input costs to the spread of Fusarium wilt.

The country’s total banana shipments in 2022 was 6.5 percent lower than the 2.432 MMT recorded volume in 2021, publicly released Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed.

Because of the lower volume, the value of the country’s banana exports last year also declined by 3.66 percent to $1.096 billion from $1.138 billion in 2021, according to PSA data.

Despite the contractions in volume and value, bananas remained as the second most valuable agricultural export of the country, behind coconut oil.

However, bananas fell by a notch to the 12th position in the total exports of goods by the Philippines, based on historical PSA data.

PSA data showed this is the lowest annual volume and value of banana exports registered by the Philippines since 2016 when it stood at 1.733 MMT worth $730.459 million.

Alarming decline

Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) said the contraction in exports was caused by lower domestic production as farmers reeled from high input costs and farms were impacted by the continuous spread of Fusarium wilt.

“[The decline] is quite alarming. What is saddening is that our rank [in the global banana market] slid to number 3 from number 2,” PBGEA Executive Director Stephen A. Antig told the BusinessMirror.

“The only consolation we have apparently is that it is not only the Philippines that is having supply problems but also other countries,” Antig added.

Antig said the industry has become “frantic” after Guatemala overtook the Philippines as the second largest banana exporter in the world last year.

“We are trying to look for possible solutions. Because the reasons behind why we dropped to number 3 were uncontrollable. We are just hoping that the gap between the number 2 and number 3 will not be that wide and will not become wider,” he said.

The BusinessMirror broke the story that Guatemala ended the Philippines’s four-year reign as the world’s second largest exporter of bananas as the Asian country struggled to keep its share in key markets amid stiffer competition from Latin American producers. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/01/26/phl-loses-no-2-spot-for-banana-exporters)

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) explained that banana production in the Philippines continued to fall as growers struggled to address and curb the “devastating” spread of Banana Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4 disease.

Antig concurred with the reasons of FAO, disclosing that his group estimated the total hectarage affected by Fusarium Wilt is between 15,000 hectares and 36,000 hectares. The area would represent about 17 percent to 40 percent of the 88,000 hectares planted with bananas nationwide.

Antig said the small and medium-scale banana producers are the ones affected the most by Fusarium wilt spread.

“There are no more small and medium banana producers. They used to control half of the industry and based on feedback they have been wiped out,” he said.

Antig said PBGEA hopes the country’s banana exports this year would not drop below the $1-billion mark and would at least achieve $1.1 billion in export receipt.

PSA data showed that the Philippines’s banana exports last year contracted across all its key markets.

The country’s banana exports to Japan, the country’s biggest market, fell slightly to 919,510.537 MT from 929,917.582 MT while shipments to China declined by 8.4 percent to 831,642.276 MT from 907,536.537 MT.

Banana shipments to South Korea declined year-on-year by 4 percent to 259,446.52 MT while exports to Saudi Arabia contracted by 31 percent to 57,165.619 MT from 82,738.992 MT.

Image credits: Ceazar Perante

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