Business, agricultural food and export groups welcomed the suspension of payment of fees for pesticide residue analysis, saying this will benefit thousands of farmers, exporters and micro, small and medium enterprises.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT), and Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization, Inc. (PHILFOODEX) lauded the issuance of Department of Agriculture (DA) Administrative Order (AO) No. 11-2021.
Issued last February 24 by Agriculture Secretary William Dar, AO 11-2021 removes the fee requirement for the pesticide residue analysis carried out by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and its laboratories.
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.”
The business organizations said the removal of the fees will benefit some 150,000 farmers and growers nationwide, including more than 1,000 small and medium-size processors and exporters engaged in the production and processing of agricultural products.
In January this year, PCCI, PHILEXPORT and PHILFOODEX called on DA and BPI anew to reinstate free pesticide residue analysis of all fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables for export, saying there was neither merit nor legal basis for imposing the fees.
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 groups said.
They added that 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 stressed.
To protect their citizens, developed countries and regions such as Japan, the European Union, United Kingdom, United States, South Korea, and China-all major markets of Philippine agricultural products-impose stringent legislation on pesticide residues.
In the Philippines, it is the National Pesticide and Analytical Laboratory (NPAL) that conducts pesticide residue analysis service to identify and control these residues.
The business groups noted that before 2019, NPAL had not been collecting fees since 2007, in compliance with Executive Order (EO) No. 554 of 2006 and DA AO No. 7-2007.
EO 554, signed by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, eliminates the fees and charges imposed on export clearances, inspections, permits and other documentary requirements in order to improve the country’s export competitiveness.
PCCI President Benedicto V. Yujuico said that the suspension of payment will positively impact the agriculture stakeholders. “We commend the leadership of Secretary 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 said.
PHILEXPORT president Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. also expressed appreciation for the issuance of the new policy. “The competitiveness of our export sector will grow with the easing of the cost burden of our farmers and growers. They will now be better able to compete with their counterparts in other ASEAN countries who have the advantage of receiving generous aid from their governments.”
For his part, PHILFOODEX president Roberto C. Amores said this development is good news for agri food processors and exporters. “It 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.”