Local business groups are requesting a review of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry’s (DA-BPI) draft circular of the “Guidelines on Licensing and Registration of Food Business Operators and Facilities in the Primary Production and Minimal Processing of Plant Food”. 

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) and the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization (Philfoodex) say the proposed circular will be an added burden to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) because it already overlaps with the requirements and processes of existing food control systems.

“We are in a pandemic and MSMEs are already on survival mode, with about 50 percent of enterprises having closed (down) due to weakened market demand and (their) inability to comply with many and expensive safety protocols,” the groups said. “The additional burden from this regulation will slow down the recovery, if not kill the struggling MSMEs at this point of the current crisis.”

The groups argued that the proposed circular will only duplicate the process time and impose additional fees throughout the supply chain as there are many agencies involved in the farm-to-table system. There also already exists a number of accreditation procedures and regulatory policies to implement food safety such as the Department of Health, Bureau of Customs and local government units. 

“Many of us are already compliant with standards such as Good Agriculture and Manufacturing Practice (GAP and GMP), HACCP, Halal and Kosher, all addressing accountability and traceability from farm to table,” the groups pointed out.

PCCI, Philexport and Philfoodex are urging the DA-BPI to ensure that the draft circular does not burden the private sector as well, and for the Anti-Red Tape Authority to streamline the documentary processes and requirements toward automation for the MSMEs’ business continuity.

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