CARMEN, Cotabato: The Philippines should move quickly to fill in the shortage of fresh bananas in Japan, where the “Banana Morning Diet” has become a huge craze, Rep. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza of Cotabato said Sunday.
Due to the growing popularity of the Banana Morning Diet, Taliño-Mendoza said that over the last six months, bananas have been flying off supermarket racks in Japan faster than they could be replenished.
Created by a pharmacist in Osaka, Taliño-Mendoza said the Banana Morning Diet has become fashionable in Japan on account of strong endorsements by celebrities there who has attributed their sudden weight loss to the regimen.
The regimen starts with a banana (or as many as desired) with a glass of room temperature water for breakfast and anything for lunch and dinner. Desserts are disallowed after meals. A mid-afternoon snack is fine. One must have dinner by 8 p.m. and go to bed before midnight.
A market of 128 million people, Japan is already the buyer of more than half of annual Philippine banana exports. Japan imported 970,000 metric tons of bananas in 2007, mostly from the Philippines and partly from Taiwan.
Cotabato (formerly North Cotabato), Taliño-Mendoza’s home province, is one of the Philippines’ leading producers of banana and other tropical fruits. Cotabato has large plantations run by tropical fruit growers, including Standard Philippines Fruit Corp., a subsidiary of Department of Labor and Employment Philippines Inc.
“We are definitely counting on growing banana exports to provide increased employment and livelihood opportunities moving forward, not just in Cotabato but in other Mindanao provinces as well,” Taliño-Mendoza said.
The Cotabato lawmaker noted that under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), Philippine bananas would gain more access to the Japanese market.
Under the JPEPA, she said Japan agreed “to eliminate import duties on small bananas over 10 years.” She said the JPEPA also provides tariff reduction for other kinds of bananas, offering an advantage to Philippine exporters.
Taliño-Mendoza said the Philippines could still substantially grow banana exports by enlarging market share in Japan and other parts of the world.
After Ecuador, the Philippines is now the world’s second biggest banana exporter, with a global market share of 16 percent. Last year, the country shipped out 1.905 million metric tons of bananas worth $440 million, or P18.1 billion based on the $1:P41.14 exchange rate at the end of 2007.
However, Taliño-Mendoza said the Philippines’ 2007 banana export volume was only 40 percent of the 4.65 million metric tons shipped out by Ecuador that year. Ecuador cornered 34 percent of the global banana export market in 2007.
She urged the agriculture and trade departments to ascertain whether local banana growers and exporters require additional help—in terms of new infrastructure, low-cost loans, technical assistance, or marketing support—to build up productivity and expand global market share.
Besides Ecuador, the Philippines’ other rivals in the banana export market are India, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Mexico. –Manila Times