Agri Sec pushes for “Pinoy” banana chips brand

The "Pinoy" brand was recommended by the USAID-funded Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) which extends technical assistance to farmers eyeing export markets.

The Philippines’ banana chips industry had an average production capacity of around 600 metric tons per day in 2005. Mindanao produced 90% of the country's banana chips production, from cardava or plantain banana variety.

The country's annual banana chips exports averages, according to figures from industry sources, close to $80 million shipped to major importers — Mainland China, Hongkong, Taiwan, and the United States. China is a fast-growing market.

Panganiban said the banana chips exports of the country account only for 9% or $35.5 million of the $400 million total banana products exported in 2005.

He said the target of increasing the Philippines banana chips export by 26% in 2010 is achievable, citing a road map presented by the banana industry in Southern Mindanao to raise exports from 34,250 metric tons in 2006 to 46,000 in 2010.

Seventy seven percent (77%) or 4.84 million metric tons of the country's banana yield was produced in around 220,000 hectares of land in Mindanao in 2005, Panganiban said.        

Despite the huge production and expansion of existing banana firms, Panganiban said there is still a need to attract additional investments to further expand banana hectarage, diversify production and help small banana farmers hurdle difficulties as the global market for bananas continues to expand. He noted the need for a research arm to study market demands.

Panganiban cited President Arroyo's plan to make Mindanao an agri-business hub. The department, he said, is looking at ways to help small farmers in production, processing, transporting and marketing banana products.

The Banana Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (BICSMIN) organized the three-day conference. BICSMIN sought to “integrate in the forum the country's banana stakeholders to plan and strategize improvement and market expansion;” address the need to determine market opportunities, link producers to viable markets, and “help develop markets for native bananas.”

During the open forum Wednesday, a participant asked if the government could help farmers operate a processing plant so they don't have to be at the mercy of traders.

Another asked if the banana growers could be exporters themselves. A farmer from Palembang, Sultan Kudarat asked Panganiban if it is possible to open a port in their town because it is expensive to use the General Santos City port which is quite far from the coastal town.

Panganiban assured the farmer they will find a way.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the Philippines primarily exports Cavendish banana and banana chips. Lakatan and Latundan are in demand in the local market, while demand for organic banana chips, Cavendish and balangon for export is also growing.

Mindanao's banana production is valued at P34.5 billion, P20.5 billion of which came from Southeastern Mindanao. The region produces 42 percent or 2.67 million metric tons of the national output, more than half of the total from Mindanao.

In 2005, the Philippines exported around $400 million of banana products. Fresh bananas accounted for 91% or $362.6 million. Processed banana or banana chips accounted for $35.5 million and banana ketchup, at $1.9 million.   

Japan is the biggest importer of fresh Philippine bananas, buying around 45% or about $173 million, followed by South Korea (12%), Iran (11%), China (10%) and United Arab Emirates (UAE) (9%).   

In 2004, the Philippines was next to Ecuador as the world's second largest banana exporter with Mindanao producing 77% of the total production — Southeastern Mindanao at 42 %, Southwestern Mindanao (11%), Northern Mindanao (10%), Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM (7%), CARAGA (4%) and Western Mindanao (3%).

Bananas were planted in 205,102 hectares in Mindanao in 2004, or about 50% of the total land area planted to banana in the country. Southeastern Mindanao’s banana lands account for s 32.5% is in Southeastern Mindanao, 18% in Northern Mindanao, 15% in ARMM, 13% in Caraga region, 12% in Southwestern Mindanao and 10 percent in Western Mindanao. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)