Entry of PH bananas to Australia pushed

By Mico Agustin

It’s about time.

In a meeting recently with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has urged the former to open their market to Philippine bananas after being barred for over 20 years now.

"As former Minister of Agriculture, I will raise with you the issue of the banana imports. We have been working at that for 20 years, probably. And we have not been able to ship to you a single box of bananas," Dominguez was quoted as saying.

 

Top Food Export 

Dominguez also told Bishop that Philippine bananas, one of the country's top food exports, are highly sought and accepted in many other countries.

Banana products from Mindanao plantations are exported to markets like the Middle East, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea, where demand for the fruit has increased in recent years.

"Japan accepts our bananas, China accepts our bananas, even the Middle East accepts our bananas," he said.

As a banana supplier in 2015, the Philippines fell to 6th place behind Ecuador, Belgium, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the United States, from 3rd place in 2014.

 

Strict Requirements

Biosecurity Australia, the inspection and quarantine assessment arm of Australia's Department of Agriculture, has long been imposing strict phytosanitary and sanitary requirements on Philippine bananas.

These requirements include the need for Philippine banana exports to have eight leaves prior to harvest as well as the use of non-perforated bags for packing.

The Australian Banana Growers Council has long been opposing banana imports from the Philippines. 

“Biosecurity Australia is presently considering a request from the Philippines , but the science has previously ruled against it because of the unacceptable risk of diseases being introduced into Australia," Former Federal Agriculture Minister and senior National Peter McGauran said.

"I can't pre-empt Biosecurity Australia's import risk assessment process, but we will adopt a conservative approach to the request for importation of fresh bananas," he added.

 

Countermove

As a countermeasure, the Philippines has asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) way back in July 2003 to create a dispute panel to settle its complaint with Australia regarding banana exports. 

Philippine officials have argued that Australia’s measures are inconsistent with provisions of the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade (GATT) barring countries that are signatories to the pact from imposing non-tariff trade barriers.

 

Assistance

Meanwhile, Bishop reportedly reiterated to Dominguez the need for the Philippines to meet Australia's risk management measures, and Australia's top diplomat also offered assistance.

"The challenge, I guess with you and for us is for Philippine produce to be able to meet those conditions in order for exports to occur," Bishop was quoted as saying.

"We can continue to talk about more assistance that we can provide to meet those requirements," she added.

In Australia, bananas are the number one selling supermarket product and the second biggest national horticulture industry after citrus, Australia's Department of Agriculture said on its website.

 

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