When it comes to the Philippines, most Chinese people will think of the sweet bananas. Indeed, the Philippine bananas account for more than half of China's banana imports. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 1.166 million tons of bananas were exported to China in 2018, accounting for 37.3% of the country's total banana exports, with a total value of about $496 million. The volume of banana exports is growing rapidly, with an increase of about 56% from 2017 (745,000 tons). China surpassed Japan for the first time in 2018 and became the biggest buyer of the Philippine bananas. Why are Philippine bananas so popular with Chinese people? Besides bananas, how are other Philippine Foods developing in China? With these questions in mind, FOOD2CHINA invited Mr. Marshall Louis M. Alferez, Consul General of Consulate General of the Republic of the Philippines in Guangzhou, and Mr. John Paul B. Inigo, Vice Consul (Commercial) of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center, for interviews.
FOOD2CHINA: What is the most popular Philippine food in China?
Marshall Louis M. Alferez: The Philippines has a large diversity of foods products and we export many of them. What we are promoting most at present are the Premier Seven: bananas, pineapples, mangoes, coconuts, coffee, chocolate and tuna. Many Philippine fruits enjoy a good reputation in the world, such as bananas, mangoes and pineapples. We export a lot of fresh food to China, but the most popular among Chinese consumers is bananas. In 2018, China imported more than 1.1 million tons of fresh bananas from the Philippines, accounting for 66 percent of China's imported banana market. Every year, the Philippines exports large quantities of fresh fruits to other countries, particularly bananas which we export to at least 50 countries. Our bananas have built a solid reputation because of its price and its high quality. Due to the soil and climate of the Philippines, Philippine fruits are endowed with high sweetness and special flavor. In places like Japan, North America and Europe, many high-income consumers are more inclined to buy Philippine bananas. People might be interested to know that Filipinos even make our traditional “barong tagalog” shirts out of banana fiber and pineapple fiber. In addition to bananas, we also exert a lot of effort to market our pineapple and mango. Philippine mango is considered to be the best mango and we are working hard to expand the market for the fruit in China. In addition, we are also working on the promotion of fresh young coconut and frozen durian from the Philippines because they have a very large market demand in China.
FOOD2CHINA: What do you think of the imported foodmarket in China?
Marshall Louis M. Alferez: I think it is an exciting market. If we look back over the past decade, China's imported food market has grown by at least 50%, which is a huge potential market that would be very attractive to any food exporting country. China has a large number of middle class with a considerable income, a forward looking international view, and a strong desire to try imported fresh food. In addition, China's advanced food processing and distribution technology are also exciting. In the past, our main traditional markets in China were the cities near seaports, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Guangzhou. However, at present, thanks to the development of transportation technology, we are able to ship our food to the ports and then distribute the products to inland China, such as Hunan, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xian, among other areas. As a result, Philippine food is expanding its share in the imported food market in China. China is the largest trading partner of the Philippines, and our food is of high quality and we aim to meet the needs of the Chinese people. We are working hard to export more food to China, but it must be said that Chinese consumers have a huge demand for food and as such food producers have to rise up to the major challenge of meeting the demand.
John Paul B. Inigo: We are very keen to export more Philippine food to China. Thus, we sincerely invite Chinese investors to invest in the agriculture and food industry in the Philippines. Under the Philippine Investments Priorities Plan, they can partner with Filipino producers and help increase production to meet the needs of Chinese consumers. In addition to fruit, the Philippines is also rich in fish and seafood as we are an archipelago and there are still many possibilities for investors to help develop our marine and aquatic resources. Besides this, the meat industry is also an investment direction. We have a lot of land resources for raising animals, as well as for Industrial Tree Farming and Orchards. We believe it will be a mutually-beneficial venture for our two countries. With these, we are very confident that Chinese consumers will enjoy affordable, safe, high-quality and delicious Philippine food.
FOOD2CHINA: How do you plan to promote Philippine Food in China?
Marshall Louis M. Alferez: China's "Belt and Road" Initiative has created many opportunities for Philippine food companies and we will seize the opportunity it presents in order to export Philippine food to China. In addition, China International Import Expo (CIIE) is a great platform for Chinese consumers to know more about Philippine food, and Philippine exporters can find out which foods are more popular in China through the expo. Apart from CIIE, another important exhibition is the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO). Over the past 15 years, we have participated in the expo with a good number of Philippine food exporters and it has helped them develop partnerships and markets for their food products. If China can continue to hold these types of exhibitions, it will help us in marketing and selling more Philippine food to China. In the future, in addition to participating in the exhibition, we will also participate in other activities and look for some reliable partners to jointly promote Philippine food to China. I think that in addition to establishing good relationships with the Chinese government, it is also necessary to cooperate with Chinese institutions and enterprises. Certainly, the cooperation with FOOD2CHINA and IFA is exactly the B2B partnership we need. We hope that in the future FOOD2CHINA and IFA will establish cooperative relations with Philippine enterprises, so as to help Philippine enterprises open the door to the China’s imported food market. We also hope that this cooperation with IFA will also help us in promoting our own food exhibitions to Chinese food importers, such as the International Food Expo Philippines - NXTFOOD Asia held every year in Manila. All these exhibitions will certainly bring Chinese importers closer to potential Philippine partners, and ensure that they both benefit greatly from the collaboration.