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NEWS UPDATES 1 September 2009

Philippines considers allowing entry of US vegetables

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Manila may agree to Washington’s proposal to allow the entry of cold climate vegetables in exchange for the export of Philippine bananas in the US, reported GMANews.TV.

Agriculture officials said this may be the only way to secure the approval of the US Department of Agriculture for the Philippines’ formal request to penetrate the lucrative US market for fresh bananas.

“They are asking us if they can export temperate vegetables to the Philippines. We haven’t responded yet, but the arguments will always lead to a counter-trade arrangement," said Bureau of Plant Industry director Joel Rudinas.

The US government, Rudinas said, has expressed its interest to export temperate vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus. He said the Philippines must submit its position on the findings of the import risk assessment (IRA) conducted by the US government on Philippine bananas as a protocol in the processing of requests for fruit exports.

In its IRA last month, the USDA said Philippine bananas may be allowed entry into the US market if mitigating measures be undertaken to address the issue of the danger of potential pests.

An IRA reviews existing quarantine policy on the import of animals, plants and their products, identifies and classifies potential quarantine risks and develop policies to manage them.

Rudinas said big banana companies in the Philippines are preparing for the opportunity to export fresh bananas to the US.

“I think Dole and the other companies are adopting a wait and see attitude but are also devising plans of how to provide the needed volume once the US agreed to import from us," he said.

Fresh bananas remain the country’s top agriculture export with receipts amounting to $397.4 million last year. The Philippines currently exports fresh banana to Japan, South Korea, Middle East countries, New Zealand, and China , among other countries.

Meanwhile, Manila is still waiting for Canberra ’s response to a petition it submitted seeking a reconsideration on the strict conditions stipulated on the final IRA on Philippine bananas.

Canberra has issued an order in December 2008 to accept the entry of Philippine bananas into their fresh fruit market.

The Plant Bureau alleged that if the protocols, which are very technical in nature, would follow the final IRA, it would put Philippine banana exporters at a great disadvantage.

Both governments must cooperate to develop an operational work plan to be approved by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service before any import permits for bananas from the Philippines into Australia will be considered.

Among others, issues that needed to be threshed out are quarantine measures and protocols, the deployment of Australian inspectors in the Philippines, and the inspection of plantations and packing plants.

Rudinas said that Biosecurity Australia is much concerned in protecting Australia’s banana industry from Philippine banana pests such Moko, Black Sigatoga and Freckle and Bract Mosaic Virus.

But Rudinas argued that these pests “are all treatable and can be discounted if proper phytosanitary procedure is observed."

Annually, Australia produces 270,000 metric tons bananas, just a fraction of the Philippines’ 7.5 million MT production.


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