Laurentino Cortizo, president of Panama, assured that he is open to dialogue with Costa Rica to resolve the conflict over exports, but that this requires the “availability” of the Costa Rican authorities to reach a fair agreement.

Panama is not allowing the exports from several Costa Rican dairy and meat products plants. And have pointed out that despite many efforts it has not been possible to renew the exports of five beef plants that had been disabled since 2015 and moved to Costa Rica.

“The relationship with Costa Rica is good, especially that from President to President, it is fluid. We would like these issues to be resolved at the table, in dialogue. But it must be two-way, not one-way, and that also requires the Costa Rican authorities to have the availability. We Panamanians have it,” Cortizo said.

Reaction to the export ban

Cortizo also confirmed that Ramón Martínez, Minister of Commerce and Industries, tested positive for Coronavirus. Martínez has not developed serious symptoms and is in isolation, working from home, as confirmed through his Twitter account. The Ministry of Commerce and Industries of Panama said on August 8th  that it has not received the same consideration that Costa Rica is requesting to access its market.

“Panama has not received the same access from Costa Rica and despite many efforts, it has not been able to renew its exports of the order of several million dollars in beef to Costa Rica, from 5 plants that were disabled in the year 2015, ”the Panamanian government stated on August 8th. “Nor has it been able to complete the approval processes by the Costa Rican authorities for a small group of Panamanian processing plants (finished chicken, cobia, seafood, and dairy products) that try to enter the said market,” they added.

However, they assured that it has not adopted measures to block imports of several Costa Rican dairy and meat products plants, but that Costa Rica’s permits to export to the neighboring country have expired.

The Ministry alleges that the permit for Costa Rican plants authorized to export to Panama expired on June 30th, and the Costa Rican authorities did not carry out the necessary procedures for its renewal.

The Tico Minister of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), Renato Alvarado, assured last week that “since the measure was known, coordination with Senasa (National Animal Health Service) began to request the Panamanian authorities to extend the period of authorization, by Central American regulations”.

“Senasa has made in due time and form, the requests for renewal of the Costa Rican establishments to the Panamanian authorities,” Alvarado defended. According to the Panamanian government, the last inspections carried out at the Costa Rican plants date from 2014 (more than six years ago), and despite this, Panama granted extensions from 2017 only with documentary evidence.

“The Panamanian authorities must initiate a sanitary audit to verify that the conditions of the disabled plants have not changed and that the requirements for the importation of food products into the country are met without risks to the health of our population,” explained the Ministry of Commerce and Industries.

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