Cheap imported carrots and other vegetables believed to be coming from China have started to cause problems among local farmers.
This prompted Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) to urge the House of Representatives to probe the worsening smuggling of temperate or salad vegetables in the country.
The League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas has complained that alleged smuggled carrots are delivered to the Carbon Market in Cebu City every week and are being sold at P50 per kilogram (/kg) in various markets. The contraband carrots are believed to be coming from China.
KMP leader and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano urged the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to probe the proliferation of cheap and imported carrots and other vegetables in the local market and to exercise its oversight on the implementation of RA 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.
This month, a large volume of alleged smuggled fresh carrots were also seen proliferating in markets nationwide, according to various vegetable trading associations and cooperatives.
Last August, local farmers and traders called the attention of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on alleged hot cabbages being distributed in Divisoria market in Metro Manila at P70/kg which is much lower than the prices of Benguet cabbage pegged at P115 to P125/kg.
Mariano said the DA and the Bureau of Customs must be held accountable for the smuggling of vegetables because it is within their mandate to prevent the smuggling of agri products.
The inherent weaknesses of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act or RA 10845 also made it easier for smugglers to sneak in imported agricultural produce at the expense and disadvantage of our local farmers, Mariano said.
Based on the law, large-scale agricultural smuggling will only be considered economic sabotage, if the minimum amount is worth P1 million for sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables or a minimum amount of P10 million for rice.
According to the Alyansa Dagiti Pesante Ti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT-TAKO), every so often, vegetable farmers are forced to throw their harvest due to spoilage because no buyers or traders would buy them at reasonable prices.
"Mas mura ang imported at smuggled habang nabubulok at nasasayang ang ani ng mga magsasaka. Wala nang kikitain ang mga magsasaka, lugi at may utang pa ," the group said.
The other day, Agriculture Spokesperson Noel Reyes said that an inter-agency task force will be formed to investigate the suspected smuggled carrots spotted in Divisoria, Manila in the past few days.
The task force will be composed of DA, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bureau of Customs (BOC), and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
“Unang una, wala pong fresh vegetables na binibigyan ng permit mula sa ibang bansa, kasama na ang China, kasama na rito yung fresh carrots ," Reyes clarified.
"We only issue permit, through the Bureau of Plant Industry, to frozen, mixed, and processed vegetables," he added.