Banana exporters seek tax reprieve while recovering from losses

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 January) — An official of the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport) in Davao Region has called on the government to grant the banana industry here exemption from paying local property taxes while they are recovering from the losses.

The call was issued by Philexport 11 president Ferdinand Marañon in an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the inauguration of the Therma South Energy Project in Binugao, Toril on Friday.

He said both small and big banana players have been plagued by several problems, including the Fusarium wilt, or the Panama disease, that has affected some 6,000 hectares of banana plantations, and the long dry spell in Mindanao.

He added that industry players see the need to bring down the production cost to be able to compete with other banana-producing countries in what seems to be a global market war with  Ecuador, Sir Lanka, and India, which have already started shipping to the existing global markets of the Philippines such as China, Japan, and South Korea.

He also appealed to the government to give more assistance to the industry, as he lamented that it is “not giving (the banana industry) full support.”

Marañon recalled that the industry proposed to the government to buy its excess supply in 2012, the year when China implemented a temporary ban on Philippine bananas on the grounds of physanitary protocol lapses.

“The bananas can be fed to the school children who are malnourished,” he said.

But this was not addressed, he said.

He said Philexport 11 will hold the 2nd National Banana Congress on April 1 to 2 at the SMX Convention Center Davao where they will discuss industry issues and their possible resolutions, which will be presented to the government for action.

At least 1,000 industry stakeholders are expected to participate in the two-day gathering.

Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) said there have been Panama disease-resistant varieties but none has so far seen 100 percent success.

The resistant varieties of Cavendish are the GCTCV218 and OT219, he said.

He said they are hoping that eventually they will succeed in coming up with that variety. “We’re keeping our fingers-crossed,” he said.

He said there have been efforts before to develop a resistant variety but no one has started planting it on a commercial scale because they cannot determine yet if this will be accepted by the market.

Banana exporters were only able to produce 85,324,491 boxes from January to September 2015, down by 5.35 percent compared with 90,147,480 boxes for the same period in 2014. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)