Farmers harvest bananas in a plantation in Davao Del Norte Province, the Philippines, Oct. 30, 2018. China is now the second largest recipient of Filipino bananas, which are the Philippines' biggest agricultural export product. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)
by Xinhua writers Yuan Mengchen, Zheng Xin, Dario Agnote
DAVAO, the Philippines, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- Pol Tuyor is planning to expand his banana farm in the southern Philippines and increase his manpower to keep up with the rising demand of the Chinese market for the tropical fruit.
Managing a six-hectare (60,000 square meters) banana planting farm, Tuyor, 53, has been working in the banana industry for more than 25 years.
"We produce about 30 containers of bananas each week and all of them are shipped to China. Our main market is China," Tuyor told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Tuyor, from Davao Del Norte province in the southern Philippines, is experiencing the best time of his career, as China is buying more bananas from the Southeast Asian nation.
The province, known as the "banana capital" of the Philippines, is dotted with thousands of banana planting farms, which produce more than one-third of the whole country's bananas.
Under the care of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, bilateral relations have not only improved but shifted into high gear.
China is now the second largest recipient of Filipino bananas, which are the Philippines' biggest agricultural export product. The country's banana exports to China have amounted to 288 million U.S. dollars, or 25.6 percent of its total banana exports last year, with a year-on-year increase of 49.5 percent by value.
Besides bananas, more tropical fruits are entering the Chinese market from the Philippines. Figures from the Chinese government show that China imported more than 2 million tons of tropical fruits from the country over the past two years.
According to the Chinese government, trade between China and the Philippines in 2017 topped 50 billion dollars, which made China the Philippines' largest trading partner.
Nelson Chua, chairman of the company Golden Mindanao, a leading Philippine banana exporter, started sending bananas to China in 2009. Back then, he owned 100 hectares of banana farms. "Now, I have 1,000 hectares," he told Xinhua.
Today, Chua said his company exports more than 50 containers of bananas to China weekly, almost doubling that of 2015. "It's almost 1,000 tons of bananas just from my company each week," he said.
Over 80 percent of the country's banana production is from the southern island of Mindanao. The main variety grown there is Cavendish bananas, as they have a longer shelf life and are popular among consumers.
Richard Mark delos Reyes, president of the Mindanao Banana Farmers and Exporters Association, is happy to see China emerging as one of the top markets for Philippine bananas.
"We, exporters, prefer to send bananas to China because it's fast (in transportation), and it's very easy to deal with Chinese people when it comes to business," said Reyes, adding that the Chinese market also offers higher prices.
He added that the association, a major supplier of Philippine bananas to China that groups about 25 active exporters, is encouraging banana farmers to expand plantation now that China is importing a lot of bananas.
He predicted that China's demand for bananas will continue to rise in the years to come. "That's 100 percent sure. There is really a big opportunity for us to expand," he added.
Jhevarlynne Otao is a 39-year-old local banana farm worker in the southern Philippines. Her job is to ensure that the freshly-harvested Cavendish bananas are carefully handled before the padded bunches are packed in boxes and loaded onto containers for shipment to China.
She just got a big pay raise this August because the farm is selling more bananas to China.
"I am very happy to say that the bananas we send to China are of good quality and chemical-free," Otao, a mother of three, told Xinhua. "I hope more and more Chinese people will buy our bananas."