By RACHAEL KAM
PETALING JAYA: The Govern-ment is looking at making all importers of vegetables and fruits to ensure the produce they bring into the country does not exceed the permissible levels of chemical residue.
Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Chua Tee Yong said it would be easier to implement the 3P policy on imported vegetables and fruits than local ones.
The 3P stands for Pengredan (grading), Pembungkusan (packaging) and Pelabelan (labelling) and would allow the ministry to “trace and track” the greens in the market and to withdraw any contaminated products from the market immediately.
Chua said currently, some exporters already have their greens and fruits graded, packed and labelled properly to meet the importing countries’ requirements.
However, he said it would take a while to make 3P compulsory on imported vegetables and fruits because the initiative needed the coordination from all export countries.
Currently, most of the country’s greens and fruits are imported from neighbouring countries such as Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore.
Chua said local farmers export their greens and fruits to China, Singapore, Australia and Thailand.
On Thursday, Chua had said that the Government was encouraging local farmers to take part in its 3P policy to ensure vegetables and fruits in the market are safe.
However, he admitted that there would be additional cost for industry players once the policy was made a mandatory measure, as extra manpower was required and that caused higher production cost.
Vegetable wholesalers, farmers, dieticians and consumers are supportive of the policy.
The Federation of Vegetable Growers Association chairman, Tan So Tiok, said currently about half of its 6,000 members practised the policy.
He said the 10 sen for each label to be stuck on every basket of vegetable above five kilogrammes did not increase production cost.
“This should have been made compulsory a long time ago to en-sure produce in the market did not exceed permissible levels of chemical residue.
Currently, Tan said about 20,000 farmers in the country could produce 900,000 tonnes of vegetables annually, of which 20% was expor-ted to Singapore.
Fomca secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said the 3P policy was a good way to educate farmers to use the right chemical and right dosage of pesticides.
However, the Federation of Vegetable Sellers Association Malaysia president, Soo Cheng Kee, saw the 3P policy as being ineffective in addressing the chemical residue problem if nothing is done to educate the farmers.
He suggested that the Govern-ment enhance education on pesticide usage.
He said the authorities should do prevention work at farms, not at wholesalers’ or retailers’ stalls.
Monday January 3, 2011