US allows entry of 3,000 tons of local bananas

By Jennifer A. Ng, BusinessMirror

Posted at Oct 30 2012 07:20 AM | Updated as of Oct 30 2012 10:09 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has effectively given its go-signal to the export of 3,000 metric tons of cavendish bananas to continental United States by December this year.

“The workplan [for the export of bananas to the US] has been approved. US Ambassador [to the Philippines] Harry K. Thomas Jr. has expressed satisfaction [with our] preparations when he visited the Dole Philippines plant a few weeks ago,” Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Director Clarito M. Barron said in an interview on Monday. The plant is located in Bukidnon province, in the country’s southern Mindanao region.

According to Barron, the USDA’s approval is welcome news for banana farmers who had to contend with lower shipments caused by a decision of China to subject Philippine bananas to more stringent sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.

Earlier this year, China impounded bananas from the Philippines purportedly due to the presence of scale insects in shipments.

The world economic giant is the second-biggest market for Philippine bananas, next to Japan. Banana exports to China reached 358,000 metric tons (MT) worth P4.75 billion in 2011.

In August the BPI declared that China had started to ease its restrictions on Philippine bananas. As of August 14, the Chinese quarantine office allowed the entry of 17,787 container vans equivalent to 356,092 MT of bananas valued at $71 million.

Despite this breakthrough, the private-sector led group of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association continues to conduct trade missions to the Middle East, Russia and Europe to promote Philippine bananas and develop new markets for its members’ produce.

The BPI said the US government is reviewing the final work plan also for the export of cavendish bananas to US trust territories, which include Guam, the Marianas Islands and Palau.

With the opening of its market to local bananas, the US expects the Philippines to allow increased market access to its temperate vegetables.

Despite the restrictions imposed by China, the National Statistics Office said in a recent report that the value of banana exports in January-August went up by 20.16 percent year-on-year to $309.16 million.