Banana shipment to China back to ‘normal’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 February) – The shipment of bananas from the Philippines to China has normalized this month after experiencing a disruption caused by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, Pilipino Banana Growers Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen A. Antig said.

In an email on Thursday, Antig emphasized the importance of China as a global market since it has been the top buyer of Cavendish bananas from the Philippines from 2018 to 2019.

Based on the data provided by PBGEA, Filipino banana exporters had shipped a total of 1.43 million metric tons (MT) of Cavendish bananas, valued at $604.5-million, last year, an increase of 30-percent compared to 1.101 million MT, valued at $467.3 million, in 2018.

Antig explained that one of the reasons for the “disruption” was the fewer number of consumers visiting supermarkets and retail stores, following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Then known as the novel coronavirus 2019 (nCoV-19), the disease was first reported on December 31, 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Antig said the outbreak pulled the prices of Cavendish down, from an average of $8 per box to $1.80 per box last month, causing panic among small banana growers.

Bananas are among Mindanao’s contribution to the Philippines’ export industry. MindaNews file photo

But he added the market situation is picking up after the operations in more ports normalized, supermarkets and retail shops reopened, and banking services resumed.

He said banana exporters in Mindanao believed “banana remains as the most in demand fruit in the market after vegetables followed by apple and citrus as people consume more healthy foods to strengthen their immune system amidst the corona virus infection scare. “

He said Chinese importers expressed optimism the disease would not affect demand for Philippine bananas on a long-term, and compared the current Covid-19 outbreak to the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2002 that did not see a “long-term downward trend for bananas from the Philippines.”

He said Chinese importers had allayed fears of some Filipino exporters that the outbreak would cause closure of the China market as this option is “costly and unstable.”

Early in February, the Xiamen Airlines suspended for one-month the twice-weekly Davao City-Jinjiang-Davao flights to prevent the spread of the disease.

The suspension may have temporary repercussions on the growing economic cooperation between the two sister cities, Chinese Consul General Li Lin said.

Li said that aside from tourists, several Chinese businessmen and even government officials who are exploring possible business and economic partnerships would fly directly to Davao via Davao-Jinjiang-Davao flights.

“We have not only tourists but also businessmen and government officials who are making official visits as well, the suspension, of course, will bring an impact to both tourism and economic cooperation,” he said.

But Li believed the adverse impact of the suspension would not deter future cooperation as soon as the outbreak would be put under control. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)