By Jasper Y. Arcalas, May 23 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

PHILIPPINE banana exports in the first quarter tripled to 1.05 million metric tons (MMT), fueled by record-high purchases by China which accounted for more than a third of the total imports, preliminary data from the government showed.

The country’s total shipments of the tropical fruit in the January-to-March period rose by 200.72 percent from the 349,213.540 MT recorded in the same period last year, according to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data obtained by the BusinessMirror.

Also, the value of total shipments ballooned by 177.49 percent to $473.777 million from last year’s $170.737 million, PSA data analyzed by the BusinessMirror showed.

China imported 34 percent of the country’s total banana shipments in the first quarter with both volume and value of purchase posting triple-digit growth, according to PSA data.

Philippine banana exports to China more than tripled to 376,410.192 MT from last year’s 107,347.773 MT, with total value reaching $160.671 million, 175.2 percent higher than the $62.646 million recorded last year, PSA data showed.

“China has become our No. 1 importer since 2018 and it is driven by their huge population as well as affordability [of our product],” Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Executive Director Stephen A. Antig told the BusinessMirror in a phone interview.

Data from Chinese customs reported to the International Trade Centre (Intracen) showed that China bought nearly 450,000 MT of bananas from the Philippines valued at $274.956 million.

Intracen’s trade map data indicated that this is the highest first-quarter banana purchases of China from the Philippines since 2005, when data from the East Asian nation was first made available.

China dethroned Japan last year as the top buyer of Philippine bananas as Filipino growers took advantage of the expanding Chinese economy and population.

The Philippines’s banana shipments to China in 2018 expanded by 70 percent to 1.273 MMT from the 748,511 MT recorded in 2017.

Key markets

Philippine banana exports to its key markets, including Japan, South Korea, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, also expanded substantially in terms of volume and value, PSA data showed.

Japan bought 308,627.278 MT of bananas, nearly three times the 121,963.649 MT it purchased in the first quarter of 2018, PSA data showed. Total shipments to Japan in the first quarter were valued at $154.509 million, 146.6 percent over $58.376 million recorded last year.

South Korea’s banana imports grew by 233.4 percent year-on-year to 158,753.504 MT (valued at $74.137 million) while Iran’s purchases rose by 158.6 percent to 56,724.368 MT, valued at $22.972 million, according to PSA.

Exports to United Arab Emirates tripled to 40,281.546 MT from 13,697.552 MT, and was valued at $15.156 million, higher than last year’s $5.083 million.

“As we all know, banana is the most important and cheapest fruit in the world. As long as it is available in the shelves of supermarkets, foreign consumers would continue to buy,” Antig said. Intracen data and estimates by the United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization showed that the Philippines reclaimed its position as the second-largest exporter of bananas in the world last year due to higher production.