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First-ever Philippine banana exports to arrive at American commissaries

In mid-May, Clarito Barron, director of the Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry, announced that a work plan between the agency and the United States had been approved to move highland Cavendish bananas to the U.S. beginning in June. The Philippines is one of the largest global exporters of bananas, and the agreement marks its entry into the American marketplace.

The first shipment of 3,000 metric tons of fruit by DOLE Philippines in June will supply American defense commissaries. BananaOverviewThe Philippines’ Department of Agriculture pursued the discussion after China imposed stricter standards on exported product. According to the Department of Agriculture, the American marketplace could ultimately prove to be a larger export destination. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.S. is among the world’s top 20 importers of bananas.

Discussions about future banana shipments between the Philippines and U.S. are ongoing. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Philippine banana growers and exporters who are eyeing entry into the American marketplace must invest in ripening rooms as part of possible marketplace expansion.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development provided some historic data on global banana production. According to the organization, “Only about one-fifth of total banana production is internationally traded. Nevertheless, the share of banana trade in world banana production increased slightly in the last decades (from around 18 percent in the 60s and 70s to over 22 percent in the 1990s and 2000s).

In 2010 a total of 130 countries produced bananas. “The 10 major banana-producing countries are accounting for more than 75 percent of total banana production,” the organization said.

In February 2012, the Food and Resource Economics Department of the Florida Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Florida published the report “Banana Market” by Edward Evans and Fredy Ballen. According to the report, the five leading banana exporting countries in 2009 were Ecuador, Colombia, the Philippines, Costa Rica and Guatemala. “Together, they account for approximately 84 percent of global banana exports in 2009,” the authors wrote. Regionally, Latin America is the world’s top banana producer, and during 2009 Ecuador was the main supplier of bananas.

During 2009, the U.S., European Union and Japan accounted for approximately 56 percent of the total world’s fresh banana imports. The American market is free of tariffs and import restrictions. The main suppliers of bananas to the U.S. are Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and the Honduras. In 2010, the authors said these five countries accounted for 94 percent of total U.S. banana exports.

“Guatemala is the main supplier of fresh bananas to the United States with a market share of 28 percent during 2010,” the authors stated. “Ecuador has maintained its relative position as the second largest supplier of fresh bananas with a market share of 24 percent.” According to the report, supplies from Costa Rica have declined, and accounted for 21 percent of banana exports to the U.S. in 2010. Colombia and Honduras each captured approximately 11 percent of the export market to the U.S. that year.

Production of organic bananas is on the rise. “The United States is the largest single-country market for organic food products,” the report stated. “Based on industry sources, the U.S. market for organic bananas in 2010 was estimated at 123,460 tons or 3 percent of the total volume of fresh banana imports.” Ecuador was noted as the leading world exporter of organic bananas to the U.S. that year. “Industry sources point out that bananas from Ecuador are of a very high standard and are relatively cheap,” the authors stated. Colombia was ranked as the second-largest supplier of organic bananas to the U.S. in 2010.