While supply has been lower, Cosco Shipping Lines has been able to improve its movement of Philippine banana exports to China with more port calls on the island of Mindanao.
The Philippine banana industry is optimistic despite the weather problems of Typhoon Bopha in 2012 and the more recent drought caused by El Niño, according to a shipping expert based on the southern island of Mindanao.
During Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong last week, Roberto R. Del Rosario of Cosco Shipping Lines (Philippines), Inc told www.freshfruitportal.com in the past year El Niño has made it difficult for banana plantations to get the water needed to grow to the right size.
"Prior to that the damage brought to plantations due to the super typhoon that hit the Philippines four years ago," Del Rosario said.
"Until today most of the plantations have not recovered, especially in the north. They only replanted last year, but because of the drought the bananas could not grow that way.
"The industry is very optimistic, especially now as we approach October, that the supply will become better, that the output of the farms will be bigger," he said, clarifying rains started again in May.
He said the vast majority of production took place to the north of Davao City in Davao del Norte, but there was a push from small-to-medium sized growers to the south in Davao del Sur.
"Specifically a lot of Chinese companies have invested in Davao in the last year. We have quite a lot of Chinese traders in the Davao region," he added.
"Our company has strategically positioned itself this quarter so that our ships that have already been calling on a weekly basis in Davao City have now now added a call in the northern port of Panabo, which is in Davao del Norte."
He said the Panabo port was set up three years ago by Davao International Container Terminal (DICT) but only this month was it officially inaugurated, with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte taking part in the ceremony.
"The event was good because it’s an optimistic message from the president that growth in that region is expected," Del Rosario said.
"Our ships for example are one of two foreign shipping lines that are calling both the north port of Panabo and the government port of Sasa, which is in Davao City.
"We are doing both ports, our ships come in every week, coming in on the weekend which is good for the suppliers, the growers, the shippers, because that gives them the whole week to harvest the bananas, put them on the trucks, put them on the refrigerated vans."
He said most of the bananas were sent to the Chinese market, while pineapples were also an important commodity in the Mindanao island fruit sector.
"Most of the pineapples are grown in the south of Davao towards the area of Cotabato in a city called General Santos.
"That is an area that is not as big as the bananas now as far as fresh pineapple is concerned, but it’s a growing market.
"Durian is also grown in the Mindanao region but the quality of the growing and the supply is not as good – we cannot supply as much as what Thailand can do."
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