JAPAN LIFTS RESTRICTION ON RP OKRAManila, 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
© Copyright, 2003
by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved
PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE