JAPAN LIFTS RESTRICTION ON RP OKRA

Manila, April 19, 2003 -- Japan has lifted the tight inspection order it 
has imposed on Philippine okra since January 2002, paving the resumption of 
the P650 million okra export trade that has benefited hundreds of Filipino 
farmers.

Philippine agriculture attaché Joseph Sison based in Tokyo reported that 
the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has eased the inspection 
order on all okra imports from the Philippines effective April 1.

Okra shipments from the Philippines can be allowed entry into Japanese 
market provided they are inspected and certified by the Bureau of Plant 
Industry to be free from excessive pesticide residues, according to 
agriculture secretary Luis Lorenzo.

"This is a very positive development for our farmers. Now that we've been 
given the second chance, we've got to consistently improve on the quality 
of our okra so we can maintain competitiveness in the Japanese market," 
Lorenzo said.

While Japan has softened its tight quarantine regulations regarding 
Philippine okra, Lorenzo urged farmers and exporters to subject their 
shipment to BPI inspection, adding that without the required BPI inspection 
certificate, their highly perishable cargo would still be subject to total 
inspection at Japanese ports, causing unnecessary delay and giving them 
higher financial risks.

Since January 23 last year Japanese quarantine inspectors had been 
detaining and testing at their ports all okra shipment from the Philippines 
after a shipment had been found to contain pesticide residues at levels way 
above what is allowed.

The case stemmed from Tarlac okra samples that arrived that day which 
contained 0.17 parts per million (ppm) of chlorpyrifos residues, beyond the 
allowable maximum residue level of 0.1 ppm.

The incident was only the second in the past 20 years. The results of such 
residue tests take at least three days before each shipment can be 
released. Okra loses its freshness and becomes less marketable, bringing 
huge revenue losses to local exporters.

Since the 1980s, the Philippines had been exporting to Japan an average of 
88.8 tons of fresh okra weekly valued at $240,000 or a yearly delivery 
worth about P650 million.
When the pesticide issue erupted January last year, volume had dropped to 
16.4 tons worth $45,200 tons until shipment gradually stopped due to high 
financial risks associated with the tedious inspection procedure.

But with the inspection order lifted, Lorenzo believed the multi-million 
peso okra export trade will be back in business.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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