DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 November) – The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) hopes President Rodrigo Duterte will negotiate for the lifting of the hefty tariff rate on cavendish bananas during his visit to South Korea for the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit on November 25 and 26.
PBGEA Executive Director Stephen Antig told MindaNews on Monday that the major banana exporters here had raised this concern with Agriculture Secretary William Dar when they met in Davao City in August this year.
“I believe Secretary Dar was briefed about the concern. I really hope it will be taken up,” he said.
He added that South Korea has remained the third biggest export market of the country, next to China and Japan “despite the stringent policies and high tariff” of up to 30% levied against cavendish bananas from the Philippines.
Antig said the banana players here are wary that the market share of Philippines in South Korea might further shrink with the entry of more banana exports from global competitors. The current market share of the Philippines stood at 77.8% as of 2018, lower compared to 99.8% in 2009.
In a briefer released by PBGEA, the tariff rate imposed upon Philippine Cavendish bananas currently stood at 30%. However, the South Korea imposes zero tariffs for bananas coming from Peru and United States of America, 15% for bananas from Vietnam, and 6% for bananas from Colombia under their respective free trade agreements (FTAs).
The negotiation for FTA between South Korea and Philippines is still underway, according to Antig.
He said the Philippines’ trade agreement with South Korea is anchored on the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement, under which bananas including plantains, whether fresh or dried is classified under Korea’s Highly Sensitive List, which means “tariff for bananas is excluded from reciprocal agreements for reduction and elimination.”
Maria Belenda Ambi, Regionl Director of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) hopes government will secure a trade deal with South Korea on the elimination of the tariff.
“The banana industry has been asking for this since three years ago. It will benefit them in terms of more volume for exports/ more export sales because this would make Philippine bananas more affordable in South Korea with the lifting or reduction of tariff,” she said.
DTI 11 assistant regional director Edwin Banquerigo said DTI officials have been in the thick of things to negotiate for the lifting of this tax with its South Korean counterparts.
“If we can bring it lower, the better for the industry. It makes the Philippine product competitive which means expanded market, more exports, more investments, and jobs,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)