Mindanao banana chip export spared from Chinese crackdown

Roberto Barlis, chief of the DTI consumer protection and trade regulations bureau, told MindaNews in a text message Thursday evening they have verified the report from the local exporters and did not discount the possibility the incident may be China's reaction to a local crackdown on a China-made candy.

"The exporters denied they were using sulfur dioxide. What the Chinese authorities seized was dried banana exported from Cebu. They say it is a totally different product and process," Barlis said.

An Associated Press report said Chinese authorities confiscated two tons of dried banana chips from the Philippines for allegedly containing the preservative chemical at a level 25 times more than allowed under Chinese standard.

The AP report said Chinese authorities seized 100 boxes and would either destroy or return them.

Barlis told MindaNews in a telephone interview earlier on Thursday that DTI Assistant Sec. Merly Cruz discussed the report in an office meeting after receiving the report and wanted to verify if the shipment came from the region.

Only last week, Cruz underlined the growing banana chips export in the region, saying that exports of the banana chips in 2006 emanating from the Davao port reached US$24.77 million, 32 percent higher than the exports in 2005.

China was among the growing foreign markets, along with Europe, US, Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

Barlis did not discount the possibility China may have retaliated over country's removal of Chinese-made candies from the market after the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) found formaldehyde in candy samples. Formaldehyde is used in embalming.

A Chinese manufacturer of the candy threatened to file libel suit against the BFAD.

Marilou Fernandez, chief executive officer of the Davao-based Koki Food International, a manufacturer and exporter of banana chips to China told MindaNews Friday they expected an impact in the demand in the next few weeks but did not say what the impact would be. She was optimistic, however, that the August to December peak season when
banana chips is in demand in China will overshadow the problem.

Fifteen of the 24 banana chips exporters in Mindanao come from the Southern Mindanao region. The Department of Agriculture considers the China market as one of the growing markets for Philippine banana chips, with an annual growth rate of 30 percent per year. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)