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Business

Banana exports reverse sagging trend, rise in 2023

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas - The Philippine Star
Banana exports reverse sagging trend, rise in 2023
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country exported 2.354 million metric tons of fresh bananas in 2023 or 3.5 percent higher than the 2.275 million MT it shipped in 2022.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine banana exports reversed its sagging trend as shipments recovered in 2023, halting a four-year decline, thanks to additional production from rehabilitated areas previously affected by Panama disease.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country exported 2.354 million metric tons of fresh bananas in 2023 or 3.5 percent higher than the 2.275 million MT it shipped in 2022.

In terms of value, the country recorded a three-year high export receipt in 2023 at $1.22 billion, about 11 percent over the $1.097 billion recorded in 2022.

Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig attributed the recovery to the continuous rehabilitation of Panama disease-affected farms.

However, banana exporters are not rejoicing yet with the increase in volume amid various problems hounding the industry such as tight market competition from other banana-producing countries.

“(At this rate of increase) we cannot be jumping up and down but (nonetheless) an increase is better than a decrease,” Antig told The STAR.

“Fingers crossed that despite the flooding, we will still produce more than what we produced in 2023 by continuously rehabilitating (areas) and containing the further spread of Panama disease,” he added.

The recent flooding in Mindanao, Antig said, could pull down the country’s banana exports in the first quarter as it has hampered operations of various plantations in the region.

Antig said the industry is worried that Guatemala has overtaken the Philippines as the second largest banana exporter in the world, something they expect to continue in the short term due to domestic production problems.

“This might continue because of our inability to expand or rehabilitate areas affected by Panama disease,” he said.

“I think we are rehabilitating 3,000 to 4,000 hectares. If we can rehabilitate 2,000 hectares we should be happy already,” he added.

Antig said his “very conservative” estimate puts the total area currently affected by Panama disease at around 17,000 to 18,000 hectares.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization projected that Guatemala became the world’s second largest exporter of bananas, ending the Philippines’ six-year reign.

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