Australia ready to help PHL banana exporters

Canberra is willing to assist banana exporters comply with its animal health and plant regulations so they can again access the Australian market, which has been closed to Philippine bananas for more than two decades.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely said, however, that no Philippine exporter has approached Canberra and has signified interest to ship bananas to Australia.

“The Philippines is the only country in the world for which Australia has agreed [that] bananas could be exported. But for that to happen, the Philippines need to meet some risk-management measures, because Australia has its own banana industry and we have some issues around disease control,” Gorely said at the BusinessMirror Coffee Club forum held in Makati City on Wednesday.

“My view is that Philippine banana producers are not that interested in the Australian market. I repeatedly say, if a Philippine company wants to export to Australia, come and tell me and we will work with them,” she added.

Gorely said Filipino exporters prioritize Asian markets, such as Japan and South Korea, where they have a bigger share, compared to Australia where banana production is sufficient to meet domestic demand.

“If companies come to me and are interested in exporting to Australia, I’m sure we can work with them to meet the SPS,” she said. “No [Philippine] company has done that.”

Gorely added there are opportunities for Filipino exporters to ship bananas to Australia. She noted that there were years when Australians were forced to pay more for bananas after plantations in North Queensland were destroyed by cyclones.

The price of banana reached as high as $15 per kilogram in 2006 and 2011, when cyclones ravaged most of Australia’s banana plantations.

Last year Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez urged Canberra to allow the entry of Philippine bananas, which have been barred from Australia since 1995.

In October 2002 Manila filed a complaint against Australia at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for its de facto ban on Philippine bananas. Manila argued that Philippine bananas were no threat to Australian bananas because it does not intend to fill Australia’s entire demand for bananas. To date, the dispute has yet to be resolved.

Gorely also encouraged Philippine mango exporters to expand their shipments to Australia. In November 2016 Canberra allowed the shipment of Philippine mangoes to Australia, except those from Palawan, which are not yet free from mango seed weevil.

Philippine banana and mango companies, Gorely said, are big international firms that are capable of meeting Canberra’s animal and plant health regulations.

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Turning Points 2018