Philip­pines looks to China for ‘wind­fall’ when fruit ban ends

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

China will lift a Philip­pine fruit ban and ex­plore broader farm and fish­eries im­ports and in­vest­ments in its fledg­ling farm sec­tor, the Philip­pine agri­cul­ture min­is­ter said, sig­nal­ing se­ri­ous in­tent by Manila to beef up busi­ness with Bei­jing.

China would re­sume ship­ments from 27 black­listed fruit ex­porters as a “gift” when Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte vis­its with a busi­ness del­e­ga­tion from Oct. 1921, Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Emmanuel Pi­nol told Reuters yes­ter­day. “I would look at that as a good­will move,” he said. “The at­mos­phere would be pos­i­tive.”

Pi­nol’s com­ments sug­gest Duterte is fol­low­ing through on his prom­ises to build a com­mer­cial al­liance with China, made re­peat­edly in speeches in which he has an­grily al­luded to cut­ting ties with the United States and reach­ing out to its geopo­lit­i­cal ri­vals. The trade talk with China is hugely sym­bolic and marks a stark turn­around in ties since a July ar­bi­tra­tion rul­ing in The Hague went in Manila’s fa­vor and an­gered Bei­jing by in­val­i­dat­ing its claim to al­most the en­tire South China Sea.

Duterte is forg­ing ahead, even as mis­trust lingers over China’s four-year block­ade of Filipino fish­er­men at the Scar­bor­ough Shoal. Pi­nol said end­ing the ban on ba­nanas and pineap­ples would boost de­mand in other parts of a farm sec­tor that has seen its out­put con­tract for two suc­ces­sive quar­ters. “Since we are not in­volved in the diplo­matic is­sues, we are just look­ing at this as a wind­fall for Philip­pine agri­cul­ture be­cause China, we have to ad­mit, is our big­gest mar­ket for our agri­cul­ture prod­ucts,” he said by phone. “The in­ter­est of China in im­port­ing fish­eries prod­ucts will spur devel­op­ment,” he said, adding the de­mand would see Filipino farm­ers ramp up their out­put.

Shrink­ing out­put

Agri­cul­ture ac­counts for about one­tenth of the Philip­pine econ­omy. Farm out­put dropped 4.4 per­cent in the first quar­ter from a year ear­lier, fol­lowed by a 2.1 per­cent con­trac­tion in the sec­ond quar­ter, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data. To­gether with the im­pact of the El Nino weather pat­tern, the ban, he said, had seen earn­ings from ba­nana ship­ments down by half in 2015 from about $1.1 bil­lion in 2014. —Reuters

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