Stephen Antig, president of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association, said farmers with as small as half a hectare planted to bananas, are able to ship with other growers' produce, one or two containers a week.
This is true for farmers who set up cooperatives.
Small-scale farmers need the opportunity.
said the agrarian reform paved the way for the emergence of small-scale banana growers.
Some employes of big plantations in Davao for example have turned themselves into small-scale banana growers.
said this practice of independent exportation is a welcome development as this an entirely different practice from those who resort to spot selling.
said there are more small growers shifting to China although he
could not give figures.
"Most small growers are exporting to China because it is easier and the volumes are smaller.
There is a market for them, there are buyers who take their produce in smaller amounts because not all importers are institutional buyers," Antig
This practice should not be misconstrued as a threat to contract growers because like in other crops, banana growing is threatened by weather conditions.
In contract growing, there are times when the produce from farms are not enough to cover production cost such that small-scale farmers take out loans or advances from their principals and pay off the debt from the harvest.
Spot buying remains a concern, Antig
said, and cases of breach of contract had been filed against those who failed to deliver to their contract buyers.
declined to discuss these cases in detail.
"Some cases prosper, some don't."
Another positive offshoot of spot buying is that the doors for renegotiation of prices of bananas under contract have been opened.
"The contract buyers are now in constant dialogue with the farmers and often, the growers are able to get better prices."
said exporting independently is not a threat to big companies as long the quality of the fruit is good.
Unlike contract growers, there is little control over small growers.
said the control rests in the hands of the Bureau
of Plant Inspection quarantine services which inspects the fruits before these are issued phytosanitary certification, a requirement in a recipient country.
"This is very important because if the bananas exported by the independent exporter are of poor quality, this could affect the entire Philippine banana industry," Antig
On spot buying, Antig
said the industry is seeking the help of government to come up with measures to avoid this practice such as increasing the number of personnel monitoring the exports.
said the industry is also coordinating with local governments to help police the industry.
clarified that 5,000 boxes per hectare is attainable by very efficient plantations.
On the average, the yield is 3,200 to 3,500 boxes.
also said the Department of Agriculture
clarified that the Philippines is the second biggest exporter of bananas and not third.
said Japan has emerged the country's largest market because of proximity, making it easier to ship the fruit.
Farms are not controlled by Japanese proponents because there are 100-percent Filipino firms that supply to Japan, he
It was only in the late 1960s that Japan lifted its ban on importation of bananas.
This gave the Philippines the opportunity to enter that market.
"The Philippines became the biggest supplier of bananas to Japan because of its proximity.
The Philippines is nearer to Japan than Ecuador is," Antig
Japan is also a good market because it has a huge population which can afford to buy our bananas.
"Aside from that, Japan already had the infrastructure to absorb our banana.
They had ripening rooms and other facilities that are needed to accommodate importation of bananas," Antig
said supply of containers and packaging materials had become an option for buyers, depending on the contracts they enter into.
"Companies especially big producers have their own boxes and plastic bags the cost of which they just deduct from the payment to the grower," Antig
meetings with the Departments of Agriculture and of the Trade and Industry, Antig
related PBGEA's request for government to seek for the reduction if not elimination, of tariffs on bananas going to Japan and even Korea.
Japan is of particular interest since this is the country's biggest market.
Tariffs on bananas in Japan are still high and vary, 20 percent during winter when that country's winter fruits become available.
Tariffs are lowered during summer to 10 percent.
"That's the policy of Japan that is why we are asking government if it can help the industry negotiate for the reduction if total elimination of tariff," Antig
Bilaterally, that can be negotiated under the Japan-Philippines economic partnership agreement.
said even buyers/importers from Japan are helping lobby with their government for the tariff cut and have petitioned their Ministry of Agriculture on the matter.
Lower or no tariffs would further boost volumes to Japan but Antig
said the move should be calculated to avoid flooding the market with bananas.
A glut could drive the prices down which would not be good for the industry.
said PBGEA in a separate meeting with the DTI last week sought its help to help industry in identifying new markets, help exporters diversify and secure fallback markets
"We have been requesting if they can conduct more missions," he
Korea as a market for bananas is still small and there is so much potential to improve the volumes.
The tariff in Korea, however, is high at 30 percent.
"We can expore Kazahkstan, Tajikistan, Russia, Indonesia, other members of the Emirates," Antig
added that the country needs new investors, not just buyers.
At this time, Antig
said areas devastated by Typhoon Pablo two years ago need to replaced or growers would not be able to meet demand.
Of the 14,000 hectares affected by the typhoon, more than half has been rehabilitated so far.
said the target is to rehabilitate all these lands by the end of the year and normalize the volume of production and export also this year.
Smaller farms cannot rehabitate fast enough without taking out a loan.
Insurance money, Antig
said, is not enough because development cost in banana growing is big.
"Depending on the location and land, the development cost for a hectare could go range from P400,000 per hectare to as high as P1 million.
That is the initial investment," Antig