DA AO 11-2021 waiving pesticide testing fees takes effect

The private sector welcomed the recent implementation of Department of Agriculture (DA) Administrative Order (AO) No. 11-2021, saying the order waiving pesticide residue analysis fees is a big help to thousands of struggling farmers, exporters and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

In an email to exporters, farmers and growers, DA-attached agency Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) confirmed the implementation on May 9, 2021 of AO 11-2021.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar issued the AO last February 24, a move that was immediately hailed by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT), and Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization, Inc. (PHILFOODEX).

BPI director George Y. Culaste approved the recommendation letter of BPI-Plant Product Safety Services Division (PPSSD) chief Ma. Esperanza DG. Uy to implement the AO on May 9, 2021 and to undertake short- and long-term plans to get the necessary funding to increase laboratory capacity.

The AO 11-2021 removes the fee requirement for the pesticide residue analysis carried out by the BPI and its laboratories, resulting in savings of P5,250 per lot sample.

The AO states: “All pesticide residue analysis to be conducted by the Bureau of Plant Industry and its satellite laboratories nationwide on fresh and primary processed (frozen, dried, puree, etc.) fruits and vegetables intended for commercial export shall be free of charge, provided that the requesting party is a duly accredited exporter or from an accredited farmer.”

Following the AO’s issuance last February, PCCI president Benedicto V. Yujuico said this “will have a positive impact on agri-food enterprises and exporters, which have been looking for a silver lining as they strive to recover from the impact of the current health crisis.”

PHILEXPORT president Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. also noted that the “competitiveness of our export sector will grow with the easing of the cost burden of our farmers and growers.”

For his part, PHILFOODEX president Roberto C. Amores commented that this “proves that when the public and private sectors work together, we can come up with measures that will help our industry compete in the international market and will provide the necessary support to improve the lives and livelihood of our farmers and MSMEs.”

The business leaders added that the removal of the fees would benefit some 150,000 farmers and growers nationwide, including more than 1,000 small and medium-size processors and exporters that produce and process agricultural products.

The three organizations have long fought to have the pesticide sampling fees removed. In January this year, they jointly called anew to reinstate free pesticide residue analysis of all fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables for export.

They pointed out that there was neither merit nor legal basis for imposing the fees, saying that before 2019, no such fees were being collected in compliance with Executive Order No. 554 of 2006 and DA AO No. 7-2007.

Saddled by these fees, Philippine export products such as bananas, mangoes, pineapple, asparagus and other local produce have been losing volume and share in their top markets to rivals like Thailand and Mexico.

The fees jeopardized livelihoods and incomes, especially amidst the erratic demand for various fresh and processed produce due to the severe effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The extra expenses eat up the already small margins of growers and processors who are very sensitive to cost issues due to market competition,” the organizations said.

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