SUSPENDING payments on pesticide residue tests on fruits and vegetables is seen to benefit the agriculture export sector at a time when the economy is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, business groups said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) and the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization Inc. (Philfoodex) welcomed the recent order by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as this protects the interest of both farmers and exporters.
DA Order 11, series of 2021 exempts fresh and primary processed fruits and vegetables, which are intended for export by accredited businesses, from pesticide residue analysis (PRA) fees.
The business organizations noted that the National Pesticide and Analytical Laboratory (NPAL) has not been imposing PRA fees on fresh and frozen mango exports since 2007.
In 2019, however, NPAL imposed residue fees of P5,200 to frozen mangoes in 2019.
“Since more than 60 percent of farmers of fresh fruits and vegetables nationwide are into backyard operations, the amount multiplies tremendously as the costs are assessed based on the submitted lot size sample,” the joint statement read.
On the other hand, PCCI President Benedicto V. Yujuico said a halt order in collecting PRA fees will also significantly benefit agriculture stakeholders, including around 150,000 farmers and over 1,000 small- and medium-sized processors and exporters.
“We commend the leadership of Secretary [William] Dar for responding to our call to remove the PRA fees. This is certainly a big boost to the agri-food and export industry especially at this time when businesses have yet to recover from the negative impact of Covid-19 pandemic,” Yujuico added.
Philexport President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. described the DA order as a “huge reprieve for food exporters” given that the economy is currently in slump.
Still, he called for further measures “that would help achieve our export targets by enhancing the competitiveness of the agri-food sector to open and expand global market access and niches.”
For his part, Philfoodex President Roberto C. Amores welcomed the measure, and said the DA also needs to address other barriers that burdens the agri-food export industry.
Amores noted that “developed countries like Japan, European Union, USA, South Korea and China and all other major markets have imposed stringent traceability standards or the Maximum Residue Limit on pesticide to protect their people and consumers, which has become a technical barrier that impedes our export performance.”
The Export Development Council (EDC) also lauded the measure that lowers the cost of fruits and vegetable exports.
“Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we consider this bold response of DA as a gateway for us to boost the agricultural sector and also assist our economic growth and recovery towards a post-pandemic future,” EDC Chairman and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a separate statement.
Image credits: Bernard Testa