Philippine inspectors fail to find pests in bananas to China

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01:14 AM May 25th, 2012

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By: Kristine L. Alave, May 25th, 2012 01:14 AM

Cavendish bananas from Mindanao. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Philippine quarantine inspectors did not find any pests in the bananas exported to China, according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

The three pest management officers who were sent to Beijing to inspect the Philippine bananas that Chinese officials had claimed were contaminated with scale insects “did not see anything,” Alcala said in a radio interview.

As of Thursday, 170 containers of the fruit had been allowed entry into the Chinese market, he said.

In March, Chinese quarantine officials barred the entry of Philippine bananas, saying they had found a type of scale insect in the fruits. China also ordered a 100-percent inspection of incoming banana shipments from Mindanao.

Scale insects are parasites that feed on a plant’s sap. The pests can permanently attach themselves to a plant and prove resistant to pesticides.

Agriculture officials were skeptical of the Chinese quarantine report when it was sent to them.

Clarito Baron, director of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), said the pest identified by China did not occur in bananas. He noted that Japan and South Korea, which received similar shipments, did not make any complaint.

Alcala earlier said the Chinese quarantine assessment could be “political in nature.”

He said it would appear that China was picking on the Philippines as it did not order 100-percent inspections for other countries. Before March, Chinese officials only conducted random checks on fruit imports.

China and the Philippines are feuding over the Panatag Shoal, a group of rocks and reefs in the West Philippine Sea claimed by both countries.

Alcala, who met with banana exporters in Mindanao last week, said China’s complaint should be a “wake-up call” for the industry.

“Even if China did not tighten its rules, we should have made it a principle to really fix the industry,” he said.

He urged local banana producers to invest in better technologies and facilities. Small growers, for instance, do not store their fruit in warehouses, preferring to keep them in sheds. Alcala said they should band together and invest in a central storage house.

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