Philippine exporters going bananas on Australia's import policies


Malaya's online edition last May 20, 2011 headlined that Filipino banana growers are “going bananas” over Biosecurity Australia's requirement that the Philippine bananas exported to Australia should be plants that have eight leaves, and these eight leaves should be there in the plant before the bananas are harvested and not only that, the Filipino exporters are also required to use a non-perforated plastic to wrap the fruits.

The application of this strict or strange rule, whichever way one looks at it, not only threatens the export prospects of Philippine bananas to Australia but highlights an obscure part of trade law dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures which is part of a set of agreements in the World Trade Organization (WTO), to which both the Philippines and Australia are members.

According to a handbook from the World Trade Organization (WTO) website, The WTO Agreements Series, the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (“the SPS Agreement”) sets out the basic rules for food safety and animal and plant health requirements.

The Series says that while the SPS Agreement allows countries to set their own standards on food safety and animal and plant health requirements, it also specifies that regulations must be based on scientific findings and should be applied only to the extent that they are necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health; they should not unjustifiably discriminate between countries where similar conditions exist.

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