By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said he will request the Japanese government to relax its quality control on Philippine bananas stressing his agency has already complied with new protocol and assessment process.
Piñol promised to lead efforts to lobby the Japanese government to lift stricter tests for chemical residue and ensure faster access of Philippine banana exports to Japan after speaking to a group of local banana growers.
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PBGEA) has asked the agriculture chief to convince Japanese officials that Philippine banana exports comply with Japanese standards for the maximum residue level (MRL) for chemicals used as insecticides in banana plantations.
Japan has imposed standards despite the institution of new protocols and assessment process by DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
The PBGEA members export 50 percent of their bananas to Japan. During the fourth quarter of last year, the country’s banana production grew by 0.6 percent to 2.42 million metric tons (MT) from 2.41 million MT.
“I have talked with officials of PBGEA to assure them that I will personally handle efforts to resolve the issue,” Piñol said.
The PBGEA had also sought the DA’s assistance in resolving the Japanese government’s implementation of 100 percent testing of Philippine banana exports in August 2018, following the discovery of some bananas from the Philippines that contained residues of Fipronil insecticides beyond the maximum limit imposed by Japanese food safety standards.
The BPI immediately instituted a stricter Philippine assessment process with new protocols and has sent the Japanese government a list of certified Philippine companies that comply with the Japanese MRL standards.
In its letter to Piñol, the PBGEA expressed concern that 100 percent testing requirement could hurt Philippine exports especially during the Golden Week holiday in Japan from April 28 to May 6 when limited or no cargo inspections are expected.
“Mr. Secretary, may we ask for your personal intercession in addressing the issue of … MRL on Philippine bananas exported to Japan. May we ask you to please lead the delegation to Japan to settle this issue which if not addressed will affect our exports especially during the start of the Golden Week Holiday which stats April 26. Your presence will surely make a big difference,” PBGEA Executive Director Stephen Antig said in a letter to Piñol.
Piñol said he will present to Japanese officials the new protocols and assessment process implemented by the Philippine government and the banana exporters to assure them Filipino bananas comply with their food safety standards.