Panama denounces receiving damaged onions from the Netherlands

Producers in the country aren’t only worried about onion imports, now they’re also worried about the quality of the product imported. As a result, they have asked the authorities to comply with the measures of quality and to support Panamanian Agriculture.

Augusto Jimenez, president of the Association of Producers of the Highlands, said that importers were not complying with phytosanitary measures and that is why the onions from the Netherlands were in poor condition.

Jimenez acknowledged that the Panama wasn’t self-sufficient, since currently only 10% of the onion was national and the other 90% was imported from the Netherlands, the United States, and sometimes Peru.

According to the producer, this is due to the golden opportunity that President Juan Carlos Varela had to sanction the project No. 188 that delegated plant health functions to the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA).

"The Mida is the only plant protection organization recognized in the international conventions, because the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (Aupsa) does not exist," he said.

So far this year, Panama has imported a total of 233,936 quintals of onions from the Netherlands and there are another 82,000 quintals coming in December.

Jorge Landires, national director of food verification at Aupsa, said the damaged onions didn’t come from the Netherlands, although producers say the bar code of the damaged onions shows they are from the Netherlands.

"We conduct plant health and food safety checks and inspections at points of entry, either at the border or in ports," he said.

The official said that not only the Aupsa was responsible for ensuring that the food was in good condition, but that it was also the responsibility of the Mida and the Ministry of Health (MoH).

In turn, the Director of Plant Health of the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA), Dario Gordon, said they had recently retired 19 sacks of damaged onions and moved to an area that doesn’t produce potatoes and onions.

"To my understanding, the onion is being imported from Holland, but we are not the authority that must determine if it is damaged because our responsibility is to check for the presence of pests and diseases in the crop itself," he said.

He said a document was issued to protect the places that produced onions and potatoes.

According to Aupsa statistics, 5,399,803,665 kilograms of food entering the country have been verified so far this year.

They also have destroyed 173,584.14 kilograms that were found to be unfit for consumption, mainly at the Tocumen International Airport (where most of the seizures were made).


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