‘Cheap and unsafe’ agricultural products continue to flood the markets despite the word from the Department of Agriculture of ensuing investigations on the matter.
The Government’s liberalization of the rice market and its response to the pork crisis only showed it “prefers to import agricultural produce rather than assist local farmers and improve domestic production,” Apit Tako said.
“Even its actions on vegetable smuggling are belated, haphazard, half-hearted, and weak,” the farmers’ alliance said.
The farmers groups in the Cordillera region seek stronger protection as now they blame the Government’s trade liberalization policies working against them.
BAGUIO CITY — Alyansa Dagit Pesanti it Taeng Kordilyera (Apit Tako), an alliance of farmers groups in the region, said in a statement on Monday that vegetable imports and smuggling have been rampant further worsening the plight of farmers as they continue to meet losses during the pandemic.
According to them, whenever the prices of local agricultural produce increase, an influx of vegetables from China and other countries, both smuggled or legally imported” flooded the markets in the past few years.
With these illegal practices going on, local farmers were forced to dispose of their produce for they spoil quickly. In contrast, the ones from China were reportedly treated with preservatives and can have longer shelf life.
Vegetable farming: main livelihood for 58k households
A second quarter Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report shows about 58,000 households depend on vegetable farming as their main source of livelihood in 2020. These households cover the areas of Benguet, Ifugao, and the Mountain Province.
The PSA data reveals 80 percent of the country’s highland vegetables are produced in these three provinces. In 2020 the whole region produced an accumulated 130,538 metric tons of cabbage, potato, tomato, sweet potato, cassava, eggplant, and onion.
The provinces also produced 235,77 metric tons of habichuelas (beans), banana blossom, broccoli, cauliflower, kangkong, lettuce, pechay, peanut, string beans, gourd, okra, squash, ginder, pepper, carrots, yam, radish, and garlic.
Based on PSA records, the Cordillera region remains the top producer of cabbage and potato, filling 81 percent to 88 percent of the country’s harvests.
“Direct consequence” of increased agri importation
Meanwhile, militant farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a separate statement, the growing incidents of vegetable smuggling is the “direct consequence” of increasing importation.
“Smuggling flows through the same processes and the same vessels as legal importation. Every time agricultural trade is further liberalized, technical smuggling—misdeclaration, undervaluation, and misclassification—also becomes easier,” Rafael Mariano, KMP chair emeritus, said.
After the press briefing of Agriculture secretary William Dar, who vowed to confiscate all smuggled vegetables from China that had flooded the local market, the markets remain flooded with ‘smuggled and unsafe’ vegetables.
The Bureau of Customs was called to go after large-scale vegetable smugglers, not just small retailers.
“The ones who must be urgently caught and penalized are those who facilitate the entry of huge volumes of smuggled vegetables. The Government should inspect warehouses…” Mariano said.
The ₱4.8 million worth of smuggled carrots, garlic, and other agricultural products the BOC seized in Tondo, Manila on 30 September was just “the tip of a gigantic iceberg.” Mariano said. (RA/Headline PH)