Diamond Star, the biggest exporter of mango from southern Mindanao, stopped shipping to Japan after Japanese authorities detected excessive levels of insecticides applied in mango production, said Ednar Carlos Dayanghirang, DAREMCA president.
He said Japanese authorities have warned that they may ban Philippine mangoes from the Japanese market, which is 30 percent of the country's export market, if random tests would show that new shipments still have excessive amounts of the insecticides cypermethrin and chlorpyrifos, which are used against black ant and fruit fly.
Dayanghirang said majority of the growers mix the chemicals in "cocktail" solutions and use them three to five days before harvest.
Estrella Laquinta, regional officer of the Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority, said the chemicals should be used at least 30 days before harvest and with the right dosage.
Dayanghirang said it is difficult to regulate the application of the insecticides because the growers, mostly small scale farmers who deal with contractors, are still not organized. The newly-formed DAREMCA only has 20 members, Dayanghirang noted.
The Department of Agriculture, in its website, said about 73 percent of the total area planted to mangoes is owned by small farmers. In 2004, Mindanao 's total production was estimated at 188,820 metric tons or 20 percent of the national production.
Dayanghirang said the Japanese market is not really where the bulk of mango exports go "but it commands higher prices compared to other markets like Hong Kong and Korea."
Dayanghirang said that compared with prices in the past, farm gate price of mango is down by around 45 percent. He said farm gate prices, which used to range from P40 to P50 per kilo, are now only P23 to P25.
He said they are alarmed at the possibility of plunging prices to the detriment of the whole industry.
DAREMCA has campaigned against the use of cypermethrin as pre-harvest treatment. They also appealed for cooperation from all mango contractors to protect the industry.
DAREMCA has earlier called for the creation, under the Department of Agriculture, of a mango industry board from the private sector and the mango industry authority.
Dayanghirang told reporters they are also batting for joint venture production and marketing agreements to foster partnerships between mango growers-contractors and the exporters.
Also part of the group's action plan is to ask the Department of Trade and Industry's hand for agro-chemical outlets to put promotional materials on the proper use of the chemicals.
He said a joint circular is under way from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior and Local Government to help organize local mango associations in their areas.
Local government authorities, he said, are better equipped to help them organize the growers and contractors. With an organized industry, Dayanghirang said, it would be easier to inform and convince them to shun using the chemicals for pre-harvest treatment.
Laquinta, however, said there is no allowed chemical alternative to cypermethrin and chlorpyrifos. "We only have traditional and modern farming methods that prevent black ants and fruit fly from infesting the fruits," she said.
DAREMCA has proposed to do a research for best practices from among mango growers and contractors so an alternative could be developed.
But Dayanghirang said their utmost concern is for all growers to know the uneconomical consequences of continuous use of the chemicals in pre-harvest treatment danger. He said farmers should be more conscious about toxicity levels of insecticide application to the fruits.
"We stand the risk of losing the Japanese market and the possibility of prices to go down," he said.