MANILA, Philippines – Banana growers want more time to adjust production standards before complying with the stricter pesticide safety requirement of South Korea for imported bananas, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said.

Early this year, South Korea lowered the allowed amount of pesticide residue on its banana imports with plans of imposing the same on other fruit imports.

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety lowered the maximum residue limit (MRL) for iprodione, a fungicide, to 0.02 milligrams per kilogram from five milligrams per kilogram. This is lower than Japan’s MRL of 10 milligrams per kilogram.

Alcala said the South Korean government wants the new pesticide safety rule effective on Philippine banana exports by the last quarter of next year.

He said the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) is seeking more time to comply with South Korea’s new pesticide safety regulation.

“They (PBGEA) are arguing that we are already following international standards in pesticide residue. What South Korea is asking is tougher than international protocol. So we are now asking them (South Korean government) to give us more time to comply with this,” he said.

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Alcala said the government is also asking technical experts from the South Korean government to meet with industry players.

“If we adopt this pesticide residue standard for South Korea, we would also have to embrace this for bananas bound for other markets because we cannot put up plantations for the South Korean market alone,” he noted.

The Philippines supplies more than 90 percent of South Korea’s fresh banana requirement valued at around $250 million annually.

“South Korea is a very attractive market for Philippine bananas because when China imposed restrictions on the entry of Philippine bananas three years ago, South Korea, Japan and the Middle East increased their exports, raising the value of Philippine bananas,” Alcala said.

“As a result, when China resumed importation of Philippine bananas, they bought our bananas at a higher price,” he added.