Agriculture News Analysis Trade

The banana war’s Russian theatre

The large industrial port city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East could soon become the Philippine banana exporters’ next front in their struggle to defeat Latin American competitors who have been attacking their tradition markets in Europe, the US, China and Japan.

Although Ecuador – the world’s largest producer – is Russia’s biggest supplier of bananas by far, the Philippines, with 2.5% of the Russian Federation banana market, has one clear advantage in its attempt to penetrate the Pacific port city on the country’s eastern seaboard. Geography. Vladivostok is 2,325 nautical miles north west of Manila, a four-day passage by container vessel and a quarter of the time it takes to ship produce across the 7,834 nautical miles from Ecuador’s ports.

Ecuador, along with Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic have been aggressively stepping up their campaigns to capture greater market share of the world’s banana-importing countries by price undercutting rival producers like the Philippines. It is a development that has impacted on the local industry and led the Department of Agriculture (DA) to redouble its efforts to support its producers. Mindanao growers face global banana war

In early September, the DA will lead a delegation from the Mindanao Banana Federation of Exporters Association, which represents small-holding growers from the country’s main banana-growing region, to a trade fair in Vladivostok where they will promote their produce. DA Secretary, Emmanuel Piñol, has pledged his department’s support for the industry saying that it will fulfill its role in opening up new export markets.

After coconut oil, bananas are the Philippines largest agricultural export. In 2014, these two products accounted for 37% of the total of all shipped agricultural produce. That year, the Philippines exported 3.17 million metric tons of bananas.

Piñol hopes the Vladivostok mission will also open the door for other crops such as pineapple, abaca and coconut water. But he is also aware that the industry needs investment if it is to be able to compete around the world.

Last year, China destroyed 35 metric tons of Filipino bananas for failing to meet overseas quality standards, seriously damaging the local industry’s reputation as a shipper of the fruit. Poor quarantine and inadequate quality control which created the problem are now being addressed. The Bureau of Plant Industry in Davao whose staff oversees quarantine procedures is currently under investigation for alleged corruption.

“I’m sure we will find a way of avoiding damages in shipping. Our commitment to exporters is we will help them,” said Piñol as he announced the Vladivostok initiative.

Vladivostok, the home of the Russian Federation’s Pacific fleet and with an urban population of 610,000, is the administrative centre of Primorsky Krai, the largest economy in the Russian Far East.

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