Lawmakers from the House of Representatives have called for an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the proliferation of smuggled carrots and other vegetables in local markets.
The Makabayan bloc compose of representatives of the Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers and Kabataan Party Lists filed a resolution urging the Lower House, through the Committee on Agriculture and Food, to conduct an investigation on the rise of smuggled veggies in local markets.
According to the lawmakers, the Benguet Truckers Traders Association said that major markets in the country have become flooded with smuggled carrots overseas since August this year.
The League of Associations at the La Trinidad Trading Areas have also complained that four container vans full of alleged smuggled carrots are being delivered at the carbon market in Cebu City every week and they are being sold at P50 per kilo in various markets. The said ‘contraband carrots’ are believed to be coming from China and allegedly injected with chemicals to prolong their shelf-life.
The Highland Vegetable Multipurpose Cooperative has also called the attention of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on alleged ‘hot cabbages’ distributed in Divisoria market in Metro Manila at P70 per kilo which is much lower than the prices of Benguet cabbage pegged at P115 to P125 per kilo. The DA, in response, only said that it did not issue importation permits for vegetables.
There were also reportedly small warehouses near Divisoria where imported veggies are stored and released in the market when Benguet vegetable prices increased.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the DA and the Bureau of Customs must be held accountable for these incidents because it is within the two agencies mandate to prevent the smuggling of agricultural products.
The KMP also maintained that decades of implementation of neoliberal agricultural trade liberalization and massive importation of agricultural products made it easier for smugglers to do illegal business at the expense of farmers and consumers.
Vegetable disposers at the La Trinidad Trading Post in Benguet said that orders have drastically dropped due to the increase of smuggled carrots in Metro Manila, Cebu and Cagayan De Oro City, among other cities. From the previous 100 sacks of carrots a day, vegetable disposers said that they are only able to set up at least P30 sacks of carrots a day.
The Benguet farmers, vegetable traders and truckers have also reiterated their demand to stop vegetable smuggling as they urged the government for a more significant protection for local farmers against imports and smuggled produce. (Melvin Sarangay)