China Still Top Buyer of PHL Bananas


China's fondness for Philippine bananas intensified as it doubled its orders for the tropical fruit and drove total shipments up by 80 percent to 1.445 million metric tons (MMT) as of end-April.

The country's total exports in the January-to-April period expanded by 645,333.179 metric tons from last year's 800,598.136 MT, preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

BusinessMirror's analysis of PSA data showed that the total value of exports rose by almost 80 percent to $655.019 million, from $364.933 million recorded in the same period last year.

China led all foreign buyers with purchases doubling to 531,971.282 MT from last year's 265,836.157 MT. Total shipments to the Chinese market were valued at $229.154 million, 90.5 percent over last year's $120.293 million.

China is now the country's top market for bananas after it ended in 2018 Japan's 30-year reign as the top importer of the Philippine tropical fruit.

Filipino banana growers and exporters are hiking their shipments to China as they seek to take advantage of its growing economy and huge population.

Analysts also noted that some of the Philippines's key markets for bananas are already saturated, forcing exporters to find other more 'lucrative destinations.'

China's customs data disclosed to the International Trade Center (ITC) the confirmed increase in the shipments of Philippine bananas to the Chinese market, but there is a disparity between the figures of the ITC and the PSA.

This is because data from the ITC indicated that the country's shipments of bananas to China were lower at 359,223.36 MT. This volume is nearly 28 percent higher than the 280,829.715 MT it purchased in the same period last year.

Data from the PSA showed that Japan, now the country's second top buyer of bananas, increased its purchases of the tropical fruit by 90.45 percent to 441,929.866 MT. The shipments were valued at $222.229 million.

South Korea's purchases of local bananas during the four-month period went up by 87.96 percent to 207,445.816 MT from 110,361.755 MT, according to PSA data.

However, official customs data disclosed by Japan and South Korea to the ITC painted a different picture of Philippine banana exports: the country's market share in the two East Asian countries is on the decline.

ITC figures revealed that purchases of Philippine bananas by Japan and South Korea during the four-month period contracted in terms of volume and value, which Antig said, is a cause for concern.

Japan's banana imports from the Philippines declined slightly to 263,536.820 MT, from 265,893.058 MT last year, while the value of total purchases fell 1.22 percent to $228,608 million, ITC data showed.

ITC data also indicated that South Korea's purchases dropped by nearly 7 percent to 105,556.537 MT, from 113,460.372 MT last year. The total value of imports declined by 16.68 percent year-on-year to $83.215 million.

There were also glaring discrepancies between the export data of the PSA and import data of Japan and South Korea.

Antig explained that the contraction in imports as reported by Japan and South Korea showed that the Philippines is losing its market share to Latin American producers.

He said Japan is already a 'saturated' market for the Philippines due to its aging population while South Korea is purchasing more bananas from Latin American countries like Ecuador.

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