Yes, as you read in the title, the banana exporting business in the Philippines has been sagging in recent months. The Davao Region, where I live, is a major exporter of bananas, so that is a big concern here.
Firstly, for those who don’t know, the title of this article is a bit of a play on words…. you see, in many of the Philippine languages, the word meaning banana is “saging,” so to say that the business is sagging, while true, is also a bit of a joke.
Why is the banana business on the downward trend? Well, because of the recent disputes between China and the Philippines. For those who don’t know, China has been kind of using strong arm tactics to make land claims on lands that have traditionally been Philippine lands, such as the Scarborough Shoal. There has been a dispute between a number of Asian nations for years over the Spratley Islands as well. In recent months, Chinese Navy ships and Philippine Navy ships have been occupying the Scarborough Shoal to exert their respective claims to the area.
Since China is a major importer of Philippine grown bananas, this has created a problem for places like the Davao Region, where bananas are a major export. You see, bananas that have been shipped to China have been left to rot on the docks, because the Chinese government is delaying inspection and such as a way to punish the Philippines over the maritime dispute.
Because of this de facto embargo of Philippine bananas, the country has started seeking out other export markets where they can shift their banana exports to. Over the past few weeks, it has been announced that the Philippines has secured approval from the United States authorities to start exporting bananas to the USA. This could turn out to be a very lucrative market for Philippine bananas, and could even open the door for other Philippine fruit exports to the USA, which would be very good news for Philippine farmers and for the country in general. As I have been reading about this, I have been very happy that the Philippines has found a new export market, and also that this will bring benefits to the Philippine people!
Last week, though, I found out some even better news about this. News that will benefit me, other expats in the Philippines and the Filipino people too. What is it?
Importing US Vegetables to the Philippines
Yes, the Philippines and the USA are in negotiations to broaden this agreement about banana shipments to the US. The USA is demanding that the Philippines start accepting much larger scale importation of US grown vegetables. Right now, some US vegetables are imported to the Philippines, but quantities are very limited, and generally only allowed to be sold to high end hotels and high end restaurants. Basically, unless it is a very unusual situation, you cannot go the grocery store or any kind of market and purchase imported vegetables in the Philippines. But, it appears that a bilateral deal is in the works to make US grown vegetables widely available in the Philippines and to make more Philippine fruits available for American consumers. I really see this as a win-win situation for the two countries!
When I showed this information to my wife, Feyma, she said she could not wait to start getting some sweet onions (like Vidalia onions, Walla Walla, Texas Sweets and such) and other vegetables. I told Feyma that I was looking forward to some nice green peas, and also some good potatoes! Will it happen? Too early to say, but if it does, I will be very happy!