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China also impounds ’infested’ PH papayas

President Benigno Aquino gestures as he speaks during an interview with AFP at Malacanang Palace in Manila on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. Aquino said the government was trying to arrive at a fair percentage of revenues from mining firms. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines is being pestered by China with another complaint of fruit infestation.

Chinese quarantine officials have found mealybugs in shipments of papaya and pineapples from the Philippines, Bureau of Plant (BPI) Director Clarito Barron said.

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In an interview, Barron said China sent BPI a letter on May 2, stating that 43 crates of papaya and pineapples had been impounded in Shanghai following the discovery of mealybugs in the shipments.

“The funny thing is we also sent them to Japan and South Korea and they have not complained,” he said.

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Barron also noted that mealybugs are found in China, too. “They are considered cosmopolitan insects. They are found everywhere, even China. They are not a pest of quarantine importance,” he said.

Mealybugs are very small insects found in warm and moist climates. They feed on plant juices.

The claims that Philippine crops are infested have worried farmers in Mindanao, who produce these fruits for export.

In a forum with local officials from Compostela Valley, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Tuesday said he had ordered more thorough inspections of Philippine fruit exports while they are in the local soil.

“There should be 100 percent inspections now that our fruits are under scrutiny,” he said.

Chinese authorities reported of mealybugs infestation, a month after the feud over Panatag Shoal flared up.

This complaint on mealybugs followed a Chinese report sent last March saying that the bananas from the plantations in Mindanao are contaminated with scale insects.

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Scale insects are parasites that feed on a plant’s sap. Some scale insects can permanently attach themselves to a plant and be resistant to pesticides.

Baran was asked if the Chinese moves against the Filipino exporters were a result of Beijing’s territorial disputes with Manila, the latest of which was the current standoff in Scarborough Shoal prompted by Philippine allegations of illegal fishing by Chinese fishermen.

“My concern here is on the technical issues,” he replied.

Baron said he and his team were to go to China this week to inspect the 150 container vans containing bananas worth $760,000. The 40-foot vans are impounded in Beijing. The group would also check the shipments of other fruits.

The BPI team is scheduled to leave for China on Thursday, but is still awaiting a response from its counterparts.

China is the second biggest export market for Philippine bananas next to Japan. As of February 2012, banana exports to China accounted for 19 percent of the total exports during the first two months of 2012.

President Aquino urged the Department of Agriculture on Tuesday to cultivate other export markets. Alcala said the country is looking at sending more bananas to Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Cambodia and countries in the Middle East.

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TAGS: China-Philippines relations, mealybugs, papaya, pineapples, Scarborough Shoal dispute
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