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Chinese market lukewarm to Panama-resistant banana

Banana producers have started producing a banana variety that can resist the dreaded Panama disease, but the main market for Philippine bananas, the Chinese buyers, are reluctant to buy it because it looks like their local variety, a company official said.

Alberto Bacani, chair of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, said recently that Chinese buyers are not keen on buying the Giant Cavendish Tissue Culture Variant 218 because the variety looks like their own.

“There’s some truth to that because it actually looks like the local banana in China,” Bacani said when asked on the reception of the market of the variety which local banana growers have started producing to prevent the entry of Fusarium wilt, a soil-borne disease, into their farms.

Fusarium wilt, popularly known as Panama disease because of its country of origin, makes the plant wilt and renders the farm where it is present as useless. Usually, growers need to quarantine the farm to prevent the spread of the disease.

However, Bacani said the result of their sensory test in Japan between a regular Cavendish banana and the GCTCV 218 and in terms of texture and aroma, the reception was better for the new variety.

“For China lang ‘to (This is for China only), but if you look at Japan, Middle East, Korea, they don’t notice the difference,” he said.

For the Chinese, they were suspecting that exporters were selling them a local variety for higher prices.

Stephen A. Antig, executive director of the association, said there is a need for local producers to convince the Chinese buyers that what they are buying are better bananas compared to their local produce.

“China is becoming the market. You can never go wrong with 1.3 billion people. Maski 30%, 10% lang sa 1.3 billion (even 30%, or 10% of the 1.3 billion), and they eat one banana or one finger of banana per day, that should account for more than 50% of our production already,” Antig said.

Both officials said the industry, particularly the independent banana growers, have also been affected by the scare brought about by the Coronavirus-2019 as they were forced to cut their prices just to recover part of their production cost.

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