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Stronger relations allow fruit growers into Chinese market


03-23-2017 14:06 BJT

Full coverage: 2017 Boao Forum

(Source: CGTN)

Just a few months after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China, business between the two countries has picked up considerably. This is true for Philippine fruit producers in particular, who couldn't previously export to China. CGTN's Barnaby Lo visited a banana plantation in the south of the country to see how things have changed for the better.

It’s never been busier at this banana packing plant in the Southern Philippines. The orders have doubled this year… and they’re coming mostly from just one country – China. A.R.R. Agri-Business Corporation has actually been exporting bananas to China for years. In fact, its only market was China, until sovereignty issues over islands in the South China Sea brought diplomatic relations of China and the Philippines almost to a halt.

Philippine banana exporters were hit hard by the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines. This plantation, for instance, was exporting some 30,000 boxes of bananas to China each week before 2012. Now from 2012-2016, when tensions were highest between both countries, they exported only half of that number.

"Other farmers were not able to sustain their farms because they tied up their market to China. So when China tried to (make) strict their policy, quarantine policy, they tried to implement it, then there were about 1,000 vans rejected from the Philippines that day, so they suffered," A.R.R. Agri manager Romy Limama said.

A.R.R. Agri suffered too but was saved by orders from the Middle East. Today, however, their production can hardly keep up with China’s demand. In early March, Chinese and Filipino companies signed agreements for the exportation of some 1.7 billion dollars’ worth of Philippine bananas – and other fruits – to China. China’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua says, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

"Just several days ago, I was told that today’s signing ceremony will be amounting to US dollar terms, 1 billion US dollars. But in five days, the total number has jumped to 1.7 billion. So today’s ceremony should wait for a few more days because we might have a higher number," Chinese ambassador to The Philippines Zhao Jianhua said.

That's despite recent developments in still unresolved territorial issues between China and the Philippines. President Duterte's response, however, has been to ignore the tensions and continue building on the friendship he's been able to restore.

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