Pesticide residues detected in Philippine bananas, prompting Japan’s farm ministry to issue inspection orders to all importers

TOKYO, Dec. 20 – As many Philippine banana samples were recently found to contain pesticide residues at levels exceeding the legal limit, the agriculture ministry has issued inspection orders to all importers of Philippine bananas.

It is the first time for the ministry to require inspection of all bananas imported from the Philippines by each shipment lot. The ministry says it is not decided when the measure will be lifted, and that the priority should be put on finding out why excessive residues were found.

The orders were issued in the end of November. The ministry usually tests only a few percentages of the shipment lots, but inspections had been expanded to 30 percent of the lots after a number of samples having excessive residues of fipronil insecticide were discovered in September. Cases of residue violation continued to be detected even after the ministry adopted stricter monitoring.

An importer of Tokyo said bananas with excessive pesticide residues were mostly found in the lots imported by small-scale firms. “There are differences according to regions in how Philippine producers cope with the issue and not all of them might have been able to follow through with the rules,” the importer said.

The Finance Ministry statistics show that Japan imported a total of 990,000 tons of bananas in 2017, out of which 790,000 tons are from the Philippines.

Due to the new testing rule, importers say it will take them a few days to clear the customs, resulting in possible delays in delivering products.

Market dealers said they are unlikely to suffer from shortage of stock, but feared this could damage consumer confidence in imported farm produce.

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