By Jun Ledesma

Some good news

FOR days we have been reading morbid stories about the death tolls from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It hit China, European nations, the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Japan to name a few. As the casualty increases the economy plummets, engines of heavy industries come to a halt, and trades falters as borders are closed to human and commodities movements to deter infections and childish politics.

Amidst the gloomy outlook is a thriving banana industry in Davao. Attribute it to Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte's unique diplomatic saga to China and Japan, while there were irritants between the former and the Philippines over island and fishing disputes one thing is indisputable he made what Spokesman Harry Roque describes as “best friends forever” with China’s Xi Jinping and Japan’s Shinzo Abe.

Stephen Antig, the Executive Director of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association, revealed that the first two months of 2020 overshadows the export receipts of the same period in 2018 and 2019. He said that in 2019, fresh bananas’ performance was much better than the previous year with a 39.7% Year over Year (YOY) growth in terms of FOB value (in million USD) 2018:   1,382.11 compared to 2019:   1,930.88 (Fresh bananas includes Cavendish Banana, small dessert bananas and plantain.)

Antig, however, pointed out that while in the first two months of 2020 the total exports in terms of the number of boxes went down in almost all markets, the FOB value went up. This, he said, is probably due to the increase in China’s spot market price on account of the demand for Philippine bananas considering the logistics problems attributed to the lockdown of China’s borders restricting the entry of bananas from neighboring Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Last year, Davao exported 361,342 metric tons in January and 283,391 MTs in February valued at $160.57-million and $126.35-million respectively.

This year, despite the alarming incidents of COVID 19 cases reported in Wuhan, the Philippines managed to maintain its exports to China. In the first two months in 2020, Davao shipped 384,151 MTs in January valued at $159.45- million and 344,034 MTs in February with a value of $163.75. This data was culled from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Antig cautioned, however, that now that the borders are open, spot prices in the Philippines are rapidly decreasing from as high as PhP540 to PhP400 per box and expectedly much lower in June when bananas from Ecuador will arrive in China. Even then we are still cashing in.

The problem of banana growers is in controlling the spread of Panama disease or fusarium wilt, which creates havoc, especially among small growers farms. The Department of Agriculture was and is still remiss in helping small growers and it does not help that in Davao del Norte, politicians have no regard for quarantine protocols by ordering the dismantling of foot and tire wash stations, a move that only ignoramuses and idiots can contemplate.

On the whole, it pays that the friendship that binds China and the Philippines is holding on despite irritants. And thank you to Japan too. Had it not been for COVID Davao was about to embark on direct tuna and other marine products trade with China too. In fact, Marina Tuna, had made initial deliveries but was stopped when air traffic was cut on account of COVID 19. In the meantime, while a large portion of the Davao region is still on enhanced community quarantine it is bound to wiggle out of the bind with the number of infections slowing down while the number of recoveries outpacing deaths. The next good news will still be datelined Davao.


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.