In his arrival statement from China today, President Rodrigo Duterte spoke of gaining a “windfall” from his second visit to Beijing. He was there to attend a summit of 28 world leaders on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious program of economic diplomacy. He said China has offered more aid, investments and trade deals but provided few details about these.
The country’s banana growers, most of whom could be found in the Davao region, where Duterte comes from, could only hope those deals would lead to more Chinese imports of Philippine bananas. The commodity has become the barometer of Chinese-Philippine relations. As tensions mounted in the diplomatic ties between the two countries, Philippine banana exports to China steadily fell from a peak of 129.2 million kilograms in August 2014 to a low of 12 million kilograms in June 2016, President Benigno Aquino III’s last month in office.
Ahead of Duterte’s first visit to China in October 2016, Beijing announced a lifting of an import ban on Philippine bananas. As a result, Philippine banana exports to China began to rise again after mostly falling since early 2015. These more than doubled to 97.2 million gross kilograms in the fourth quarter of 2016, from 43.6 million kilograms in the same period the year before, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
However, the recovery seemed short-lived. Philippine banana exports to China fell to only 64.5 million kilograms in the first three months of 2017, down by 23 percent from the same period the previous year, according to PSA data.
Will President Duterte’s second trip to Beijing lead to an uptick in banana shipments to China like the last time? Banana growers are certainly hoping so. But they also want to see a more sustainable surge this time.
With a report from Pauline Macaraeg