Philippine fruit importation has grown substantially and is seen to further rise with more Filipinos incorporating healthy food into their diet amid the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its latest report, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) here in Manila said global exports of fresh fruits to the Philippines increased by 36 percent to $695 million in 2020 over 2019 , and are forecast to grow five percent in 2021.
“Since the start of COVID-19, Philippine consumers have incorporated more fresh fruit into their diet,” USDA-FAS Manila said.
In 2020, the US’ fresh fruits exports to the Philippines dropped 35 percent to $32.5 million due to ocean freight challenges that continue to persist. But, USDA-FAS Manila said traders are optimistic that once the pressure on the global supply chain eases, US fresh fruit exports to the Philippines will bounce back to $50 million in annual sales.
Right now, the top exporting countries of fruits to the Philippines are the US, China, Australia. In 2020, exports from mainland China and Australia increased by 80 and 17 percent respectively.
The fruits that the Philippines buy overseas are apples, mandarins, oranges, lemons, grapes, kiwi, melons, pears, and cherries.
USDA-FAS Manila said imported fresh fruits such as apples and oranges are often lower priced than some domestic fruits because of the seasonality of local fruits and the strong export demand for Philippine fruit, primarily bananas and pineapples, in Japan and other East Asian countries.
Further, USDA-FAS Manila said that while fruits intended for export are produced specifically for foreign markets, the economic resources that are utilized affect the overall supply of fruits for domestic consumption.
In the Philippines, the demand for imported fruits peaks during the holiday season (October through December) and during the dry season (March through May).
The Philippines grows a variety of tropical fruits. Bananas and papayas, for instance, are harvested year-round, while the rest are seasonal.
In 2020, Agriculture Secretary William Dar urged the public to patronize and buy local fruits during the holiday season.
“Promoting our own homegrown fruits will boost not only the country’s fruit industry, but also provides farmers and their families more income,” Dar said.
The fruits that are available locally, according to Dar, include pineapple, chico, guava, citrus, Vizcaya ponkan, cantaloupe, pomelo, sugar apple, watermelon, dragon fruit, papaya, and avocado.
“These are available year round and can be bought in every market. Let’s promote and take pride in them, thus giving our tradition a deeper meaning by nurturing our agricultural sector,” Dar said.
He also reminded the public to look after their health by consuming not only fruits but also nutritious vegetables and appropriate protein sources to boost their immune system against COVID-19.