Filipino banana exports could slide by 40% this year

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Filipino banana exports could slide by 40% this year

Filipino banana exporters expect shipments to drop by as much as 40 percent this year as output is drastically reduced by Fusarium wilt and climate change, with the aggravating impact of Covid-19 on trade.

That expectation comes despite a 10% uptick in exports in the first quarter of 2020.

Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen A. Antig said the 40 percent reduction is a worst-case scenario, considering the extent of damage to plantations by Fusarium wilt (a.k.a. PanaMa disease), coupled by the drought experienced in Mindanao.

Antig estimates that 20 percent of the country’s area planted with bananas has been damaged by Panama disease. As of March, he said, the disease has already affected about 30,000 hectares to 40,000 hectares of banana plantations in Mindanao.

Worse, Antig said the unfavorable weather conditions, particularly the drought in Mindanao, is adversely affecting local banana production.

He explained that the lack of rainfall would impact small and medium growers without access to irrigation facilities.

“[The 40 percent reduction] is possible. And I hope it is already the worst-case scenario,” Antig told the BusinessMirror in a phone interview.

The country’s banana shipments in 2019 reached a record-high 4.4 million metric tons (MMT), which was valued at nearly $2 billion, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed.

Antig said a best-case scenario would be a 20 percent to 23 percent reduction in export volume, which he noted was “not bad,” given all factors affecting the industry today.

Nonetheless, Antig said they hope the Philippines could maintain its stature as the world’s second-biggest producer of bananas despite the foreseen reduction in output.

He explained that other banana-exporting countries, particularly Ecuador and other Latin American nations, also face trade challenges due to Covid-19.

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