The Philippines’ once-booming banana business is under threat as the world’s fourth largest banana grower (after India, China and Uganda) in 2014 – producing 9.4 million tonnes of the fruit – faces new and growing competition from the banana lands of Latin America.
Mindanao growers, who saw exports fall by 6.6% to 1.6 million metric tonnes last year, believe they are in a global market war with Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
These countries, which claim they can produce the fruit at half the cost of the Philippines, are targetting Mindanao’s traditional markets in the US and Europe. Russia’s ban on products from Ecuador – the world’s largest banana exporter – caused Ecuadorian exporters to focus on the Philippines’ large Asian markets of China and Japan.
The global slowdown in importing countries and the crippling effects of the El Niño phenomenon which will seriously impact this year’s banana harvest, are adding to the growers’ woes. Stephen A. Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association believes that in the first quarter of the year production will have slipped by as much as 40%.