MANILA – Negotiations are on for more Philippine agricultural production for Japan which continues reeling from the onslaught of the mega-earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant disaster there this month.
"Some stakeholders there want to buy what we'll grow -- there's a ready market," Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said.
He noted that DA and about four private firms from Japan are already discussing the latter's contract farming offer so details on this can be finalized as soon as possible.
"What government will do is try to lower production cost," he also said.
Alcala recalled that food safety concerns amid reported radiation leaks from the damaged Fukushima plant prompted the firms to approach DA about Philippine production of food for Japan's consumption.
"What's affected are agricultural areas there," he said.
He lauded the firms' move, saying the Philippines has the resources and technical capability to engage in contract farming.
Discussions on the contract farming venture for Japanese customers are focused at present on vegetable production, Alcala said.
DA is optimistic such venture will further open up the market for Philippine-grown vegetables.
Official data show the country's 2009 vegetable exports to the world included seaweeds and carageenan, asparagus, shallots, onions and garlic.
Data also show crude and refined coconut oil, fresh bananas, tuna, pineapple and pineapple products as well as fresh mangoes were the Philippines' top agricultural exports to Japan that year.
Aside from growing vegetables, however, DA is considering to offer fisheries produce for the firms' Japanese customers as well.
"We can produce high-value marine species like 'pampano' and groupers," Alcala said.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Malcolm Sarmiento assured the Philippines can help meet Japan's demand for fishery produce, including tuna.
"If radiation damages Japan's fishing grounds, they can order tuna from us," he said.
He noted Japan's tuna grounds are in the North Pacific area.
This area is nearer to the Fukushima disaster site, unlike the Philippines' tuna grounds.
Sarmiento noted the Philippines sources its tuna from South Pacific waters and the Celebes Sea.*PNA