"Mango exports reel from pesticide curbs"
By Neil Jerome Morales
Business World


Strict pesticide residue limits set by Japan have aggravated the problem facing fresh mango exports caused by low production due to weather disturbance, industry and government officials have said.

"The export of Philippine mangoes is seriously affected by stricter environmental and health regulations imposed by Japan, one of the major Philippine export markets," said Roberto C. Amores, president of the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization, Inc. and the Philippine Mango Exporters Foundation, Inc., in an e-mail the other day. "The recent cases of agricultural chemical residue detections on Philippine mangoes which were sent back will constrict the export growth of this product."

In 2006, the Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) imposed a maximum residue level (MRL) of 0.05 parts per million for chlorpyrifos and cypermethrine, which are active ingredients in insecticides, in all mango shipments to Japan. The former MRL for these chemicals was 0.5 ppm, Mr. Amores said.
"Regrettably, the Philippine government authorities did not file any comment on these MRLs prescribed by Japan for mangoes, unlike other foreign countries which submitted proper data for the revisions of MRLs," he said.

For instance, the "banana export industry had an MRL of 3.0 ppm for chlorpyrifos because multinational companies immediately submitted to Japan MHLW necessary data such as toxicity and residue data when the MRL was established," he explained.

Fresh mango exports to Japan, excluding Okinawa, dropped 20% from 9,955.802 MT in 2004 to 7,964.421 MT in 2005, and by a smaller 18% to 6,516.456 MT in 2006, before snapping back to a bigger 20.35% drop to 5,190.406 MT in 2007, Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) data show.

Fresh mango export earnings dropped to $12.652 million last year from $13.509 million in 2006, $15.497 million in 2005 and $17.917 in 2006.

Mr. Amores said that "our mango export to Japan is threatened to extinction as it has become extremely difficult to source mangoes that are within the present MRLs of 0.05 ppm."

In the first quarter of the year, 21.89%, or 2,503.340 metric tons, worth $934,178, of the total 11,433.934 MT ($2.21 million) fresh mango exports were shipped to Japan, BAS data showed.

Last year, 19.71% or 5,190.406 MT, valued at $12.625 million, of the total 26,337.819 MT fresh mango exports went to Japan.

The same data showed total fresh and processed mango exports in the first quarter this year stood at 16,879 metric tons worth $2.87 million.

"Because of the latest cases of detections, Philippine mango exports to Japan are subjected to mandatory inspection for pesticide residues prior to entry," Mr. Amores added.

Inspection costs are either shouldered by exporters or are passed on to Japanese consumers, which increase mango prices, Mr. Amores added.

"Our exports to Japan have dropped because we have less mango produce due to typhoons and the La Nina earlier this year," Rene Rafael C. Espino, director of the Agriculture department's High Value Commercial Crops Program, said in a recent phone interview.

Mango production dropped by 14.5% to 780,540 MT in the first half from 912,590 MT in the same period last year, data of the BAS show.