PHL scrambles to meet Iran’s huge demand for bananas

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THE Philippines is racing to fill the requirement of Iran for Philippine bananas despite the difficulties posed by El Niño to local banana growers, an official of the Department of Trade Industry (DTI) said on Monday.

Senen M. Perlada, director of the DTI’s Export Marketing Bureau, said Iran is keen on buying huge quantities of Philippine bananas following United Nations’s lifting of international economic sanctions against the Middle Eastern country.

“The lifting of sanctions against Iran opens up another huge market for Philippine bananas. However, our problem is on the supply side,” Perlada told reporters and editors during the BM Coffee Club forum held in Makati City. He said part of the problem is the El Niño, which has adversely affected the country’s banana production.

“For the first half of the year, our fresh banana exports were down by almost 75 percent. We were panicking
so I went to Mindanao to talk to the farmers. El Niño is really affecting our agriculture exports,” Perlada said.

He said, however, that the region’s banana output could improve in the coming months due to the onset of the rainy season in the Davao region—a major producer of bananas.

What’s also making it difficult for producers to supply Iran’s requirements, Perlada said, is the supply contract forged by exporters with other buyers from abroad.

“The producers cannot easily shift to another market. In a way, they have already earmarked the supply for the other traditional buyers,” he said.

Perlada added there are companies that want to prioritize Iran as their market, since it is a good alternative to China. Iran used to be the second largest market for fresh banana exports, next to Japan.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country’s banana production for the second quarter of 2015 reached 2.29 million metric tons (MMT). This is slightly lower than the 2.3-MMT output recorded in the same period last year.

The PSA report said the decrease in production could be attributed to the effects of typhoons in the Calabarzon, Bicol region and Eastern Visayas; smaller fruits developed in Central Visayas and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao due to the dry spell; and lower yield and smaller area harvested in Soccsksargen.

“Davao region, the major producer of banana, shared 38.6 percent or 888,080 MT to the national total output. Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen followed with 17.4 percent and 12.2 percent shares, respectively,” the report read.

Banana is the country’s second biggest agricultural export commodity next to coconut oil with a 16.79 percent market share in 2014, according to data from the PSA.

Last year the country’s exports of fresh banana reached 3.17 MMT, contributing $1.14 billion in export revenues.

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