MANILA - Work stoppages and market closures in China stemming from a coronavirus epidemic are hurting small- and medium-sized banana growers in the Philippines, the world's second largest exporter of the fruit, an industry group said on Monday.
Mainland China is one of the Southeast Asian nation's biggest buyers of bananas, its top agricultural export. Together with Japan, it bought more than half the Philippines' exports of the fruit last year.
The Philippines' banana shipments last year were valued at $1.93 billion, up roughly 40 percent from the previous year, and accounting for 3 percent of overall exports.
Representatives of the Pilipino Banana Growers & Exporters Association met farm ministry officials on Monday to tackle the industry challenges, including the virus outbreak.
"The China problem is not as serious for the big exporters because of their existing contracts with the importers," said Stephen Antig, the group's executive director.
The hardest hit are the small- and medium-sized growers who deal with spot buyers, he added.
"Their shipments cannot be readily delivered, because of the work shutdown and closure of markets," Antig told Reuters in an email. "Chances are, some of the fruit will get rotten on the piers sooner or later."
The initial impact of the shipment woes on banana exports is likely to show up in January trade data to be released next month, he said.
"For now, it is very difficult to come up with figures, even rough estimates."
Talks with logistics providers and efforts to identify other potential markets were among the key steps the ministry plans to help resolve the problem, Antig said. (Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)