Iran keen on buying more bananas from PHL (Business Mirror (Philippines))

Iran’s purchase of Philippine bananas could increase in the coming months following the United Nations’s lifting of trade restrictions against the Middle Eastern country.

Ali Asghar Mohammadi, Iran’s ambassador to the Philippines, said he is optimistic that the export of fresh bananas to his country will increase now that it is again open for business.

Last month the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that created the basis for the lifting of international economic sanctions against Iran.

This is the right time for the Philippines to do business in Iran. Iran is a big country. It is five times the size of the Philippines and has 15 neighbor countries, this is a huge opportunity for the Philippines, Mohammadi said during his recent meeting with members of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA).

The food industry is always in demand. The tourists have also been coming to Iran. Last year we had 7 million tourists and we are targeting 25 million in 2020, the tourists are a good market for fruits, he added.

PBGEA said the Philippines has been exporting fresh bananas to Iran in almost two decades. In 2008 the export of fresh bananas reached 510,642 metric tons (MT). However, because of the UN’s trade restrictions, prompted by Iran’s nuclear activities, it went down to as low as 148,892 MT in 2014.

Iran continues to be one of the most important foreign markets of fresh Philippine bananas of the cavendish variety. In fact, despite the difficulties encountered by banana exporters caused by the UN trade sanctions, Iran remained as one of our best destinations, PBGEA Executive Director Stephen Antig said.

With the lifting of the sanctions, Mohammadi urged the Philippines to deepen its trade relations with Iran. He pushed for a review of the loopholes in trade agreements and to study how bilateral trade can be improved.

Davao is a very good example of private sector-led development. The image of the Philippines [is] positive. Maybe Iranians would also like to invest in the Philippines, Mohammadi said.

PBGEA President Alexander N. Valoria said a trade mission between the two countries could facilitate the entry of Iranian investments into the Philippines.

The group, however, warned that threats to the local banana industry could undermine efforts to strengthen trade ties between the two countries.

Aside from the El Nino weather phenomenon, Antig said the passage of House Bills (HB) 5161 and 3857 could kill the industry.

HB 5161 seeks to regulate the establishment and implementation of agribusiness ventures arrangements (AVAs) in land-reform areas, while HB 3857 aims to ban aerial spraying on banana plantations.

Antig said HB 5161 will unne-cessarily allow interference by the government in purely private commercial transactions.

PBGEA maintains that the private sector is the most efficient and effective mover of business and investments. Involving the government in AVAs will further increase the presently cumbersome regulatory requirements for investments in the Philippines, he said.

Aside from Iran, Philippine fresh bananas are also exported to Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia, New Zealand, Mongolia, Ukraine, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Producers also ship out bananas to Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. There are also niche markets in Europe.

Banana is one of the country’s best agricultural products, second only to coconut oil. The Philippines is the second-largest banana exporter in the world, making the banana industry a consistent top dollar earner.