Duterte to witness banana importation agreement
TOKYO - President Rodrigo Duterte is set to witness Wednesday the signing of a deal between his government and a private Japanese firm to import 20 million boxes of bananas, which has an estimated cost of $220 million.
Tatsuo Horiuchi, president and chief executive officer of Farmind Corporation, one of the biggest Japanese banana importers, said the memorandum of understanding, which is a "purchase agreement," aims to ensure the Philippines could provide quality and stable supply of bananas for his company, which places the product to many convenience stores in Japan.
"We're talking about 20 million boxes as a target from the Philippines and which is about may be less than 30 percent of total Japan market," Horiuchi said in an interview with reporters.
Horiuchi said the total Japan market for bananas is about 70 million boxes.
Horiuchi said 100 percent of their banana imports used to come from the Philippines until 2013, when drought and the destruction caused by typhoon Yolanda caused imports to decline to 70 percent.
Now his company imports 30 percent of their bananas from Central America, such as Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mexico, Horiuchi told Manila Shimbun.
He added they want to regain their 100 percent banana supply from the Philippines because it is near Japan.
"We have a shelf. So this problems if worked out well, we have a very stable supply from the Philippines," he said.
"We will sign MOU tomorrow with your government and that to assist this rebel returnees, providing them opportunities to come to this market," he added, referring to the Muslim rebels in Mindanao where most banana plantations could be found.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who helped in talking with Farmind official, said the government wants to give livelihood to the Muslim rebels through planting more bananas.
He said a large portion of land in Mindanao are controlled by the Muslim rebels.
"With a defined market, I think those lands will become productive and the beneficiaries will be able to improve their income, send their children to school, hospitals when get sick and, of course, a little luxury in life," Alvarez said.
He said with the memorandum, Farmind is expected to buy bananas from the farmers.
Horiuchi said they import most of their bananas through middlemen. Only a small portion came from farmers, he said.
Bohol Representative Arthur Yap, House committee chairman on economic affairs and part of the Philippine delegation, said 20 million boxes of bananas, which Farmind hopes to import, translates to 25-30 percent planting hectares.
Alvarez also expressed hope Japan will lift the 18 percent tariff being imposed by Japan on banana exports.
He said the Philippines wants the tariff to be at zero, similar to other banana exporting countries.
"So, if the 18 percent tariff will be lifted, we will have a very good competition with other countries because in other countries they don't impose tariff," he said.
Duterte earlier said he would bring the high tariffs on bananas in their talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shizo Abe. Celerina Monte/DMS