The Department of Agriculture is looking to get for Filipino farmers and fisherfolk a bigger share of food market of Japan, which imported a total USD87 billion of agricultural products in 2022, the fifth largest in the world that year.

During his visit to Japan in December to accompany President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the ASEAN-Japan Summit, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. met with Japanese officials and businessmen to open more export opportunities for Philippine fish and tropical fruits such as pineapple, bananas, avocado,  mangoes, durian, mangosteen and okra.

As a follow-up to the meetings in Japan, Secretary Tiu Laurel Jr. said the DA has scheduled the first meeting of the Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Agriculture in the second quarter of this year.

“This very first meeting of the joint agriculture committee of the two Asian neighbors here in the Philippines will provide an avenue to follow through the agri-fisheries trade and market access discussions started in Japan,” he said.

Tiu Laurel Jr. said the joint agriculture meeting in the second quarter will also be an opportunity to discuss technical and project collaborations under the memorandum of cooperation signed in February last year, and the MIDORI Cooperation Plan.

In October, together with other member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines signed the MIDORI plan which aims to promote cooperation projects using Japanese technology and sharing experiences to build resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems for future food security.

The DA is also coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry to secure preferential tariff rate for Philippine bananas, whose leading share of the Japanese market is under threat from Cambodia, Laos, Mexico, and Vietnam whose banana exports to Japan enjoy zero or preferential tariff. 

Philippine bananas are staples for Japanese consumers, accounting for 22 percent of their food basket. The Philippines proximity to Japan allows the country to deliver low-cost bananas and other tropical fruits compliant with Japanese food standards.

Agriculture Secretary Tiu Laurel Jr. said that Manila looks at the review of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement as a good initial opportunity “to discuss the Philippines’ appeal for lower tariff on bananas.”  

Under JPEPA, tariff on Philippine banana is pegged at 8 percent from April 1 to September 30, and then increased to 18 percent for imports between October 1 and March 31.

The DA is also seeking to revive the Japanese market for Philippine mangoes, whose export had declined sharply since Japan adopted in 2011 stricter sanitary and photo-sanitary standards, especially the maximum residue limit.

During the ASEAN-Japan Summit in December,  Secretary Tiu Laurel Jr. led ceremonies to mark the re-entry of Philippine mangoes to Japan, with the presentation of the tropical fruit to his Japanese counterpart.

Agriculture Attache Aleli Maghirang, who is assigned at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, said she is hopeful that fresh Davao mangoes’ re-entry in the Japanese market will spur “greater confidence to our exporters to continue supplying to Japan.”

Secretary Tiu Laurel Jr. has directed the immediate improvement of testing laboratories to align Philippine food code with those of importing countries like Japan, and the enhancement of farming practices and production of good quality planting materials for expansion and replanting.

Japan is the second largest market for Philippine agri-food exports, enjoying a trade surplus of USD824 million in 2022. At the end of the third quarter last year, Philippine agricultural trade with Japan showed a USD596.4 million surplus in favor of the Philippines. ### (OSEC Comms/photo grabbed from FB page of Agriculture Attache Aleli Maghirang, Philippine Embassy-Tokyo)