PHILIPPINES: Banana exporters want say in China talks


by Carmelito Q. Francisco, Business World

 

Banana growers have appealed to the government to give them a seat in ongoing trade talks between the Philippines and China as well as with other countries where the fruit is exported.

 

Industry representatives, in a recent dialogue with government officials, sought the help of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) in pressing their request as the Philippines and China are expected to reach agreements soon concerning banana exports.

 

MinDA’s Romeo M. Montenegro, head of public affairs and investment office, said while the agency recognizes the banana industry’s position, they are constrained by the rules of bilateral talks.“In a bilateral negotiation, only representatives of governments are allowed to interact,” Mr. Montenegro said.

 

The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PBGEA), the organization of the country’s major banana players, said it would like more influence on the direction of the talks.

 

“The industry wants a bigger voice in the discussions concerning its issues,” Stephen A. Antig, PBGEA executive director.

 

Mr. Antig also reiterated the group’s call for the government not to “strangle (the industry) to death” with new local and national regulations that will affect the 47-year old banana export business.

 

Among the regulatory issues that PBGEA and other industry players are currently battling involve local taxation, aerial spraying rules, and government control over contract farming.

 

Meanwhile, the Davao regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced last week that some growers have started harvesting the new Cavendish banana variety that is resilient to Fusarium wilt, also known as the Panama disease, that has been affecting farms in the last five years.

 

In a press statement, DA Region 12 said the growers have proven that the new variety not only thrives in areas previously infested with Fusarium wilt but that the fruits are sweeter and have higher starch levels.

 

The DA has allocated P102 million to help the industry, particularly small banana growers, address Panama disease.

 

Source: Business World




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