Philippines: Stricter policy on chemical use hit

AN INDUSTRY leader said some of the major markets for Philippine banana are set to impose more stringent standards on the use of chemicals on the crop, which could pose a risk to the industry.

Stephen Antig, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director, said among these markets are Japan and Korea, which will impose stricter rules on maximum residue limit (MRL) for chemicals used on banana.

The MRL is a method used to monitor pesticide residues on crop while SPS Measure, which is an international treaty of the World Trade Organication, "sets constraints on member-states' policies relating to food safety (bacterial contaminants, pesticides, inspection and labelling) as well as animal and plant health (phytosanitation) with respect to imported pests and diseases."

"We believe these measures will result in the impairment of the quality of the banana," Antig said.

For instance, Antig said South Korea is imposing a reduced MRL on certain chemicals to be used on the crop. The South Korea Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) reportedly reduced the MRL for iprodione to 0.02 milligrams from five miligrams per kilogram on August 28, 2014.
"In Korea, the saleability of banana dropped by 20 percent from August 2014 to September 2014 because of the new stringent measures," said Antig, who added that there was no clear explanation from the side of South Korea as to why they are imposing stricter measures.

He said they have written a letter to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala requesting if the government can intervene and negotiate with MFDS on the sudden implementation of the stringent standards.
"If we can meet half way, that would be better than nothing at all... government should react fast to things that will affect one of the country's biggest export," Antig said.

He said South Korea's stringent MRL standards began last year and is to be on full implementation next year. Japan, on the other hand, is set to impose much stringent measures this coming September on certain chemicals.

"What we see is, there is a possible that there will be a domino effect. If Korea and Japan will be doing these, then there is a possibility that our other markets will follow suit," Antig said.

However, Antig pointed out that they are not against the imposition of stricter MRL standards as long as they will be given the reasons why these standards are being imposed.

He said they would have preferred that the industry players were given an ample amount of time to adjust with the new measures and find alternatives to the chemicals they are using.

Antig said it is not easy for the industry players to look for a substitute or alternative chemicals to be used on the banana.

He said if a certain chemical has a very low MRL, it could be ineffective and will affect the quality of the banana hence the need to look for an alternative or substitute chemical.

"We should be given a time to harmonize what they want with what we can do. We really need the help of the government to do that," he said. 


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