In terms of volume, the firm’s main export markets are China (80%), mostly Shanghai, and the eastern part of Russia (20%), namely Vladivostok. “The latter is a small, limited market, but steady for us, since low temperatures are favourable to ensure a stable consumption. In China, the market is subject to more ups and downs,” explains partner Holger Guntzel.
Speaking from the position of an exporter, unable to control the quality of the production, Mr Guntzel believes that, within a global context, Philippine banana growers should strive to improve the quality of the fruit, but he affirms that there is insufficient manpower from official bodies to execute the governmental guidelines for 'Good Agricultural Practices'. Meanwhile, “local areas in China, especially Hainan or Guangzhou, have considerably improved their quality, and another supplier, Laos, is also investing a lot and this is a danger to us,” he says.
Within this context, and to ensure quality is maintained, Philfruit’s suppliers are provided access to support. Mr Guntzel states that “we have our own surveyor team that regularly serves all areas we have contracted every two weeks, as well as our own team of inspectors during the harvesting and packing process.”
When it comes to growing conditions, Mr Guntzel explains that this year the country is suffering the impact of El Niño, as a result of which the yield has dropped by 50 to 60%. “Without water, you cannot apply fertilisers, and over the past 4-5 weeks this has entailed a great downturn in quality, also at multinational farms. Only those with an efficient irrigation system can still deliver great quality.”
Fortunately, he assures that, at this time, temperatures in China are quite high, limiting the demand for bananas in favour of juicier fruits. “This of course means we are now concentrating our shipments in Russia, where demand is currently higher. Logistical and ripening facilities have also improved a lot in this area, thus providing year round opportunities to Philippine banana producers,” he concludes.