shortage: Traders fear the typhoon could impact supplies of Philippine brands to the UAE Image Credit: Clint Egbert/xpress

DUBAI: A deadly typhoon that flattened huge swathes of banana plantations in the Philippines last week may disrupt banana supplies to Dubai and the Middle East, a senior official said.

Gil Herico, Philippine agricultural attache in Dubai, said production of the Cavendish bananas could be “significantly affected” due to extensive damage Bopha inflicted on several banana-growing regions.

Bopha has so far killed nearly 650 people in five provinces — Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte and Surigao — as strong winds and flash floods wiped out 10,000 hectares of banana plantations, a quarter of the island nation’s 42,000 hectares devoted to growing the fruit.

“It is significant damage, though the supply won’t be totally cut because plantations in neighbouring areas were not as badly hit,” Herico told XPRESS.

Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala earlier told a radio station in Manila: “I’m afraid that orders from abroad may not be delivered.”

Dubai impact

So how will it impact prices in Dubai? Herico only ventured to say: “Banana is an agricultural crop subject to nature and market forces.”

The Philippines is the world’s third largest banana producer after India and China. Much of their banana exports to the Middle East are routed through Dubai-based traders.

When XPRESS spoke to retailers in Dubai, they however said they have not felt Bopha’s effect till so far.

“There’s no supply crunch of Philippine bananas,” said Rakesh, store manager of Choithrams. Union Cooperative on Al Wasl Road had an entire rack full of three brands of popular Philippine bananas – Dole, Del Monte and Estrella.

The Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association estimated their members suffered $196 million (Dh720 million) in damage to harvest and facilities.

An official of the industry group also feared the flood may spread Panama Disease, a destructive pest that prevents the plant from bearing any fruit, eventually killing it.

Going bananas

With a total of 42,000 hectares of banana farms, the Philippines exported $471 million (Dh1.73 billion) worth of bananas in 2011.

Bananas are the world’s No 4 dietary staple after rice, wheat and corn.

Bananas lower blood pressure, keep bones healthy and are known to prevent cancer.

Bananas are the most widely-eaten fruit in the US.