200K workers affected by PH-China banana trade issue

By Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 15 2012 12:07 PM | Updated as of May 16 2012 12:47 AM

MANILA, Philippines – At least 200,000 workers in banana plantations in Davao region may be affected if the trade issue between the Philippines and China do not get resolved soon.

Stephen Antig, President of Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association, said this number does not include workers providing other services such as hauling and packing.

Antig said China started implementing stricter inspections on Philippine banana shipments entering its ports late February when pests were discovered.

He, however, said this was the first time that banana shipments were blocked since the Philippines began shipping bananas to China in 2001.

He added there may be a decline in the P6-billion earnings growers posted last year if Philippine banana imports continue to be stalled in a major market like China.

According to Antig, Chinese authorities are now requiring Philippine banana growers to have packing houses that have concrete flooring, flowing water and sanitary facilities.

“And if we could cover our packing houses with mosquito nets, we will,” Antig said.

Banana growers, however, said making these improvements would cost at least P500,000.

Italy wants PH bananas

Antig said other markets such as Italy, Russia and Mongolia have expressed interest in getting bananas from the Philippines.

Antig, however, said sending bananas to these countries would not be practical because of freight costs, especially that the Philippine government cannot afford to subsidize fuel for importers.

“These countries are too far. It won’t become very competitive, and we will not earn from it because of the freight costs,” he said.

PH team sent to China

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo on Monday said a group of experts from the Department of Agriculture will be sent to China to discuss the matter with authorities there.

He also expressed hope this matter would not lead to a total ban or affect other Philippine exports, saying a total ban would hurt the Philippines.

Antig, meanwhile, said banana growers are also willing to send a representative to China.

The current trade issue between China and the Philippines comes amid a growing tension over the Scarborough Shoal, which both countries are claiming to be part of its respective territories.

The government has downplayed the connection between these two issues.