Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez wants to export Philippine bananas to Australia, reiterating a call to allow market entry after the Australian government has kept its doors barred for more than two decades.
In a recent press briefing, Lopez told reporters that the bananas should first pass the import risk analysis done by the Australian government, which would assess the risks that could come with proposed product importations.
The Philippines has been trying to export bananas to Australia since 1995 but to no success.
In 2008, Biosecurity Australia, the inspection and quarantine assessment arm of Canberra’s agriculture department, released a report that said the “unrestricted risk” of Philippine cavendish banana exports is “too high.”
“We pushed for product inclusion for the banana,” Lopez said. “They said we just have to go through that [import risk analysis] and they can consider it.”
“It’s just that banana industry there is strong in terms of supply, so the prices are so competitive,” he added. “Even if we pass the analysis, the challenge is still to compete with the prices.”
Lopez was referring to the Australian demand for the tropical fruit, which are considered as the country’s biggest-selling supermarket product.
Lopez said this following the 49th Asean Economic Ministers and Related Meetings in Pasay City, which included a meeting with Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Steven Ciobo.
In its 2008 report, Biosecurity Australia said that the findings showed that the risks with the proposed Philippine products exceeded Australia’s “appropriate level of protection,” calling it “too high to permit the importation of mature hard green bananas from the Philippines without the application of phytosanitary risk management measures.”
Under the Australian government’s rules, if risks exceed the appropriate level of protection, risk managment measures are proposed to reduce risks to acceptable levels. Otherwise, trade will not be allowed.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III made the same call as Lopez during a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop back in March, noting that “we have not been able to ship to [Australia] a single box of bananas.”
Dominguez, who served as the Agriculture secretary under the administration of President Corazon Aquino, said that even Japan, China, and the Middle East import Philippine bananas, which are considered among the country’s top food exports.
The Department of Finance has shunned Australia’s ban on Philippine bananas, calling it inconsistent to international trade rules.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Australia is the country’s 16th largest major trading partner in 2016 with total trade reaching $1.44 billion, albeit being a trade deficit on the part of the Philippines.
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