By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Blueberries coming from the United States can now enter the Philippines freely with a corresponding tariff rate of 7 percent, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.
USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service here in Manila (Post) said that the decision made by the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA) to give complete market access for US fresh blueberries will take effect on May 24, 2020, making the United States the only country with formal market access in the country in terms of this commodity.
Blueberries are not native in the Philippines. They are grown in the mountains of Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) at very limited local production.
“Consistently supplying the multitude of hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and other retail outlets with quality product remains a challenge for Philippine growers due to limited production area and the lack of adequate post-harvest facilities and cold chain infrastructure,” the Post said.
Since the United States is the only country with official access to the Philippine market, US traders estimated that sales of US fresh blueberries to the Southeast Asian nation could reach $500,000 this season.
The Post said that sales could even grow up to $1 million in succeeding years “if there is a concerted marketing effort to increase consumer awareness on the availability, quality, and health benefits of US fresh blueberries.”
In the past, DA had allowed limited and intermittent importation of fresh blueberries for hotels, restaurants, and high-end supermarkets.
From 2015 to 2019, sales of US blueberries in the country only averaged $150,000 each year.
Like all fresh fruit importation, licensed importers must secure a Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) from the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
They will also have to pay Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariff rate of 7 percent and will have to subject their products to 12 percent Value-Added Tax (VAT).
Products must not load for export before their issuance too and they must be shipped within 20 days following their issuance. Lastly, they must arrive in the Philippines within 60 days from the must ship-out date.
It was in September last year when USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Assistant Trade Director Lisa Kohl said the Philippines and the US are already in the final stages of negotiations for the unimpeded entry of US blueberries to the Philippines.
Kohl, who was then speaking to a group of Filipino journalist participating in the Cochran Fellowship Program on Agricultural Trade Policy and Consumer Advocacy, said that at that time, the two countries were still threshing out pest risk assessment and some mitigation measures on the quality of the products.