PH firms stop sending bananas to ChinaPhilippine Daily Inquirer
DAVAO CITY—Banana-exporting companies stopped sending their produce to China even as Malacañang said on Tuesday that China has allowed the entry of up to 40 container vans of Philippine bananas.
Stephen Antig, head of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), said big firms were advised by their Chinese buyers to stop exporting bananas though smaller firms continued to do so.
“Most of us have stopped shipping to China on the advice of the buyers (Chinese). They reasoned out that their ports were already congested,” Antig said.
Antig said his group was convinced that the sudden restrictions imposed by Chinese authorities on Philippine bananas is linked to the ongoing standoff between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal, which is about 200 km from the shores of Masinloc, Zambales province.
“Chinese traders remain interested in buying Philippine bananas but are helpless because of their government’s rules,” said Antig.
“They are silent and are scared of violating these,” he said.
PBGEA, he said, wanted to send scientists to China to meet with quarantine authorities there but was advised against it by the Philippine government.
He said Philippine banana exporters had suffered huge losses as a result of the Chinese restrictions.
PBGEA members, he said, had been sending 1.2 million boxes, or about 800 container vans, of bananas to China per week prior to the Scarborough standoff.
Antig expressed dismay over what he said was President Aquino’s lukewarm response to the banana industry’s appeal for help.
“We are a bit disheartened,” he said, citing Mr. Aquino’s visit to the city last week without meeting with banana growers as sign of disinterest.
He said Mr. Aquino’s advice for the growers to find other markets was “easier said than done.”
“It is not that easy to develop a new market, which sometimes takes years or even a decade,” said Antig.
He said that even before the Scarborough standoff, banana growers had been constantly on the lookout for new markets such as Russia, Turkey and even the United States.
“But growers can only ship bananas if it is profitable for them to do so,” Antig said.
Abigail Valte, deputy Palace spokesperson, said Malacañang received a “little bit of good news” about China allowing the entry of up to 40 container vans of Philippine bananas.
The restrictions, however, prompted the agriculture department to double check all banana exports before these are shipped out of the Philippines.
Valte said Philippine and Chinese agriculture officials have agreed to conduct joint inspections of Philippine bananas arriving in China, which accounts for at least 30 percent of the Philippine’s market for banana exports. Dennis Santos, Inquirer Mindanao, with a report from Christine Avendaño in Manila