Australia allows import of RP bananas; local growers protest citing concerns

by Kobakila News

CANBERRA —   Cotabato Rep. Emmy Lou Talino’s complaint, as reported in the Philippine Daily Mirror on February 24, might have bear fruit.  The Australian government, through its agency, Biosecurity Australia, has decided that it is safe to import Cavendish bananas from the Philippines.

This opens up a market that Filipino growers have sought to enter since 1995.

The government’s decision is based on a 600-page biosecurity report released on Nov. 12 last year, which cited 21 pests and diseases in the Philippines of quarantine concern to Australia, but which concluded the risk could be reduced to “acceptable levels” by proposed risk-management measures.

According to the agency’s Web site, “the importation from the Philippines can be permitted subject to the Quarantine Act of 1908 and the application of phytosanitary measures.”

The agency also said “the Philippines will be required to demonstrate that the risk management measures can be achieved under commercial conditions on an ongoing basis.”

Biosecurity Australia’s final import risk analysis (IRA) report, which recommended quarantine measures, include:

  • exports only from areas that demonstrate low pest prevalence
  • registration of export blocks
  • inspections to detect the presence of any diseases
  • ongoing inspections of blocks and fruit, including by Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS)  inspectors
  • disinfection and fungicide spraying
  • mandatory pre-clearance arrangements with the presence and involvement of AQIS inspectors in the Philippines in applying quarantine conditions in the field, including in packing houses
  • auditing and verification by AQIS of systems and processes used by the Philippines to certify any exports
  • detailed data and documentation to be provided by the Philippines for consideration by Australia prior to any exports to verify and validate quarantine measures underpinned by laboratory and field experiments and commercial trials

Meanwhile, as this developed, Australia’s supermarket chain IGA said March 5 it would lobby the AQIS to rescind the recommendation that permitted future imports of bananas from the Philippines.

IGA chairman Mick Daly said despite of Queensland biosecurity strategy, it would not stock bananas from the Philippines while local supplies were available.

“If not picked up disease outbreaks would drastically impact on the incomes and livelihoods of banana growers with flow-on effects to their communities,” Mark Panitz, chief advocate for the horticulture lobby group Growcom, said.

The government’s decision has also stirred concerns from the Australian Growers Council saying that it was “profoundly disappointed” and would take concerns to a Senate committee hearing in Canberra next week.

The council said it was convinced significant threats from pests and diseases associated with Philippine bananas could not be effectively managed, and that exotic pest or disease outbreaks in Australia would be an inevitable consequence of this decision if it led to volumes of fruit being imported.

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