AFTER three years of meticulous application process, Vietnam has officially agreed to open its market to Philippine fruit exports, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported on Monday.
Anna Abejuela, special agriculture representative of the Philippine Embassy in Thailand, said that fresh and processed fruit exporters would benefit most from this new opportunity.
“It has been a worthwhile effort, especially for the personnel of the Quarantine Services of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), who have been working diligently to realize this milestone,” Abejuela said.
Among the promising exports are fresh Cavendish bananas and pineapple; processed fruits like dried mangoes, banana chips and canned pineapple products; and other products of plant origin that meet Vietnam’s food safety control system standards.
Paz Benavidez 2nd, DA assistant secretary for regulations, said that the accreditation process had been challenging for them and BPI because the Philippine Food Safety Act was just approved and the implementing rules and regulations have yet to be finalized.
“Only big companies have food safety control systems in place. Small farmers are not even aware of the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which is one of the requirements for exporters,” Benavidez noted.
In securing accreditation, the following were required from the Philippines: information on food safety control system; list of pesticides, plant growth regulators, preservatives used in production, storage and trade of foodstuffs; and annual updated Food Safety Monitoring Program for foodstuffs during production, domestic circulation and export.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that the department eagerly welcomes this breakthrough with hopes that this could spur further interest in other agricultural products of the country.
“This accreditation reflects how we have improved, particularly on our products of plant origin and we are positive that this further builds our integrity in the Asean and the international market,” Alcala said.
The DA chief added that this could pave the way for easier accreditation of other Philippine products other than those of plant origin such as livestock in Vietnam and even in other countries.
“Access to the Vietnamese market could further boost our competitive advantage in the Asean Economic Community (AEC) market in 2015, and serve as springboard for other opportunities for the Philippine agricultural sector in the international arena,” Alcala said. Benavidez added that this accreditation will enable small farmers to sell their products for export at a higher price, and eventually, the Philippines can tap other markets in the AEC and the world.
“More exports would mean more revenue, more labor opportunities for Filipinos and increased contribution of the agricultural sector to the Philippine economy,” Benavidez said.
To improve compliance with international food safety standards, the DA has already started to conduct more food safety trainings; make improvements on pesticide residue analysis and heavy metal testing laboratories; and build or renovate packing facilities to comply with GAP, occupational health and safety and environmental requirements for exports.
JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ