Banana exporters want uniform guidelines on cargos amid lockdowns

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 March) – Local governments in Mindanao need to issue uniform guidelines concerning cargos amid the enforcement of lockdowns across the island so as not to hamper the shipment of export Cavendish bananas, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig said.

Antig said local officials in Mindanao have different interpretations of the national guidelines on cargo, causing the stranding of several trucks that are delivering bananas from farms to international ports.

A delivery truck loaded with food supplies from San Miguel Corporation stops in front of a policeman at the quarantine checkpoint in Alae, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon on March 21, 2020. The food company has assured the public that they can produce enough food during the quarantine period. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Several LGUs in Mindanao have enforced lockdowns, closing their borders to neighboring regions, provinces, or cities, to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

He said several banana industry stakeholders are “experiencing these difficulties” in terms of logistics on the ground and many of them were sent back to their towns to undergo quarantine.

“We have national guidelines on how the cargo and personnel will be treated to maintain the supply chain but it seems that these will be voided when there is a total lockdown. Hope I am wrong. People delivering goods in transit might be stranded in any place and will not know what to do and where to go especially if they are in the border between two political boundaries,” he said.

He added they have reached out to government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Mindanao Development Authority, which vowed to help.

Antig said the demand for export Cavendish bananas remain high amid the crisis caused by the pandemic that is already affecting major industries worldwide.

“The demand for bananas is still high, but we do not know [for] how long,” Antig said.

He said banana companies would continue exporting provided there are no logistical problems that would prevent them from shipping out goods.

“The line is moving but due to the thermal checks, it is possible that there are delays. The delays vary. It is difficult to estimate,” he said.

China has remained the Philippines’ biggest global market. 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.

Covid- 19, then known as the novel coronavirus 2019 (nCoV-19), was first reported on December 31, 2019 in Wuhan, China. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)