Philippines asks Japanese retailers to raise banana prices

The Philippine government has asked Japanese retailers' groups to raise prices of bananas produced in the Southeast Asian country. Manila says it is becoming increasingly difficult to supply bananas in a stable manner due to a surge in production and shipping costs.

The Philippines government last week asked the industry groups to raise retail prices of bananas to appropriate levels. It says this is the first request of its kind the country has made to Japan.

The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo says the cost of banana production is climbing largely because fuel and fertilizer prices are soaring owing to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It adds that sea shipping and other distribution costs are also growing as economic activities are restarting after a suspension amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philippines says the rising costs have not been properly reflected in retail banana prices in Japan, which have been mostly level.

Japan's Finance Ministry data show the Philippines shipped more than 840,000 tons of bananas to Japan last year, making up roughly 76 percent of the overall import of the fruit. This means the Philippines was the largest exporter of bananas to Japan.

A Philippine Embassy official said business circumstances surrounding banana producers in the Philippines have worsened amid rising domestic inflation, the Russian invasion and the pandemic.

Retail banana prices have changed little in Japan. But they are starting to go up.

A supermarket in Tokyo sells Philippine-produced bananas for about 160 yen per bunch, or some 1.2 dollars. The price is up by around 0.5 dollars from November.

The hike comes as the supermarket sought to absorb gradual increases in wholesale prices. But an official with the supermarket said he wants to curb the price as much as possible to meet the needs of customers.

A shopper in her 80s said she feels banana prices have been rising recently. She said she will buy the fruit in bunches when the price comes down.