By Jasper Y. Arcalas, April 17 2019; Business Mirror
Image Credit to Business Mirror
THE Department of Agriculture (DA) and local planters expressed confidence that Japan’s concerns over the safety of Philippine bananas will soon be resolved as they have already undertaken the corrective measures prescribed by Tokyo.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he plans to fly to Tokyo next week to meet with the Japanese Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare and discuss Tokyo’s concerns over pesticide residue in Philippine bananas.
Piñol said he will be joined by a technical group from the local banana sector which will back him up during a possible meeting with Japanese officials.
“I will lead the delegation there and settle all these issues once and for all,” he told reporters in an interview on Monday.
Piñol said he was assured by Philippine Agriculture Attaché Samuel B. Animas that the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues raised by Japan could be settled immediately.
“We are not really worried about the Golden Week. There will be Philippine bananas during the Golden Week,” he said.
“[Animas] told me that the Japanese government will not allow a shortage of bananas in their country because that will be bad for them,” Piñol added.
Banana exporters earlier warned that the tropical fruit may miss Japan’s Golden Week this year, which stretches from April 27 to May 6, as Japanese shipment inspectors will not be available during the period.
Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) Executive Director Stephen A. Antig said his group is also optimistic that the upcoming talks with Japanese officials would shelve the mandatory inspection of all shipments of Cavendish from the Philippines.
“Secretary Piñol is the highest-ranking agriculture official, so I believe the Japanese government will not only respect that but would also consider that the Philippines is sincere in addressing our issues,” Antig told the BusinessMirror.
Antig also shared the sentiment of Piñol that Tokyo will not allow Philippine bananas to go missing from Japanese stores due to SPS concerns.
“We cannot afford to not have supply in Japan and I also believe that just like the Philippine government, the Japanese are also trying to resolve the issue at the soonest time possible,” he said.
“I don’t think the Japanese can afford to lose Philippine bananas in their supermarkets. And I think they will never make that happen also—that is how important bananas are for Japan,” he added.
Antig said shipments to Japan have not been suspended but the release of Philippine bananas in Japanese markets has been delayed.
Tokyo tightened its food-safety rules on Philippine bananas after a local shipment in August was found to contain Fipronil insecticide beyond its maximum residue limit (MRL), or the allowable level deemed safe for human consumption.
Japan reduced its MRL on Fipronil from 0.01 parts per million to 0.005 ppm, which is still compliant with the Codex Alimentarius International Food Standards.