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China's new complaint about bugs in PHL fruits puzzles agriculture exec

A new complaint from China about bugs in Philippine fruit exports has puzzled Philippine agriculture officials, who said there had been no similar complaint from other countries importing same products. Bureau of Plant Industry Director Clarito Barron said the latest complaint involving mealybugs in Philippine papayas and pineapples came on May 2. “'Yan ang nakakapagtaka. 'Yan ay isang fact, bakit ang ating prutas, na dumadaan sa masusing quality control pagdating sa Japan at Korea, ay walang problema. Ang China may problema," Barron said in an interview on dzBB radio. He stressed Philippine companies that export fruits to countries including China have followed quality control measures and undergo a strict inspection system. But when asked if the latest complaint by China was related to the month-old standoff between the Philippines and China at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, he declined to comment. Also, he noted China’s earlier complaint about bugs in Philippine banana exports came in March, one month before the standoff started. “Our bureau is a technical bureau. We will address the problem from the technical side. We will answer China’s claims questioning our quarantine protocol,” he said in Wednesday’s interview. But he said they will still request China to allow a Philippine team to go there and meet with the Chinese officials concerned so they can find a solution to the problem. Barron said the latest row with China involved the alleged presence of mealybugs in Philippine papaya and pineapple exports. “Kada isang 40-foot container van bubulatlatin lahat na prutas, magko-collect ng samples para tingnan kung may peste. 'Pag may makita, totally 'di nila tatanggapin. 'Yan ang ginagawa nila. Sa pagsasagawa nito, time element nakataya rito, tatagal," he said. China as export market Meanwhile, Barron admitted it may not be easy to replace China as an export market for Philippine fruits, saying cutting off exports to China now may affect as many as 200,000 workers. He said these 200,000 workers may include 150,000 farmers and workers in the banana industry and 50,000 in the pineapple industry. Barron said the Philippines exports 300,000 metric tons of bananas worth $60 million; 22,000 metric tons of pineapples worth $13 million; and 309 metric tons of papaya worth $300,000 a year to China. “(Ang) pineapple at saging napakalaki niyan. Ang farmers umaasa sakaling isara natin ang banana export sa China? 150,000 workers mawawalan ng trabaho... Ang pineapple, 50,000 farmers maapektuhan," he said.  "Pero siyempre hahanapan natin ng ibang merkado ang prutas na 'yan," he added. He said the alternative markets where Philippine fruits are popular include Saudi Arabia, Middle East, Oman and Qatar. Also, he said Philippine fruits can be sent to Europe, Italy, France and United Kingdom. — LBG, GMA News