MANILA—The growth of agro-based exports may be sustained with the opening up of new markets for sugar and bananas, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). 

“In addition to South Korea and India, Indonesia and the Middle East, were also identified as potential market for sugar,” said NEDA officer-in-charge (OIC) and Deputy Director-General Emmanuel F. Esguerra. 

The Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration identified these markets. But the PITC is still coordinating with the buyers in these countries on their specific requirements. 

The United States (US), Russia, China, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India are among the major importers of raw (cane) sugar, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Statistics of the United Nations. 

For exports of bananas, an initial shipment of 3,000 metric tons to the US is targeted for April 2013, according to the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). The records from FAO tag the US as one of the top 20 importers of bananas. 

“This is also in line with US Department of Agriculture’s announcement that allows Philippine highland Cavendish bananas to be shipped to their country,” said Esguerra. 

Recently, the National Statistics Office reported that exports of centrifugal and refined sugar and bananas grew by 27,094.6 percent and 95.5 percent year-on-year in February 2013, respectively. This made total agro-based exports rise by 43.7 percent, amounting to US$343.9 million in February 2013. 

The NEDA official stressed that to be able to take advantage of increasing regional and global integration, there is a need to expedite the implementation of necessary programs and policies to improve the competitiveness of Philippine exports. 

“No doubt the exporters have been affected negatively by the strong peso, but this can be overcome by the positive impact resulting from better infrastructure, efficient logistics, lower power costs, and other measures to reduce the cost of doing business,” said Esguerra. 

Esguerra, who is Deputy Director-General for Planning and Policy, is OIC of NEDA from April 18 to 22, 2013, while Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio M. Balisacan is on official business abroad.