Farmers claimed they have been competing against smuggled agricultural produce from China and other countries for many years now, although the surge in smuggled vegetables was only highlighted recently.
“Whether these smuggled carrots entered the country via technical smuggling at ports or open seas, the government must remain vigilant and decisive in stopping smuggling that affects local farmers and traders,” Rafael Mariano, chairperson emeritus of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said in a statement.
KMP pointed out that year after year, farmers and traders are urging the government to curb vegetable smuggling.
Some 47.7 percent of the total global production of carrots come from China, making it the top carrot exporter. Chinese carrots are known for their smooth and shiny skin, weigh almost one kilo per piece, have no stem, and are uniform in size.
Benguet vegetable traders said that this practice of vegetable smuggling from China has been going on since 2007.
In 2019, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized smuggled carrots and onions from China with estimated worth of P53 million. Most vegetables coming from China are sold in Cagayan De Oro, Cebu, Iloilo, Bicol, Divisoria and Balintawak.
KMP issued the statement after Agriculture Secretary William Dar admitted that the construction of what will be the Philippines’ first ever border quarantine facility for farm products is yet to start after several delays.
Dar said that the Department of Agriculture (DA) encountered problems with Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) regarding the construction of the P500-million Agricultural Commodity Examination Area (ACEA), which will now be referred to as Commodity Examination Facility for Agriculture (CEFA).
This is more than two years since Dar first revealed the government’s plan to build ACEA or CEFA, which will serve as a first border inspection facility and should prevent the entry of smuggled agricultural products in the country or those contaminated with animal and plant diseases.
The construction of the facility will serve as DA’s compliance with the ‘Quarantine First Policy’ of the Republic Act (RA) 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013. Under the law, all imported foods shall undergo cargo inspection and clearance procedures by the DA and the Department of Health (DOH) at the first port of entry to determine compliance with national regulations.
Amid the recent case of carrot smuggling in Metro Manila, Dar advised consumers to be vigilant. Just recently, the BOC has also seized P4.75-million worth of farm products in Tondo, including carrots, onions, garlic, and ginger.
“The best thing that we can do is not to buy because we don’t know what these vegetables contain in terms of pesticide residue,” Dar said in a briefing.
For its part, KMP said farmers are hoping that the DA will own up to its responsibility on the lingering problem of vegetable smuggling instead of making flimsy excuses and palliative solutions.
“DA’s first reaction is to absolve itself from the trouble without acknowledging that policies of importation and neoliberal agricultural trade liberalization contributed to the illegal entry of imported agricultural products, mainly from China,” Mariano said.
“DA is acting as if it is ready to pounce on smugglers with its threat to sue Thousand Sunny Enterprise and Dua Te Mira Non-Specialized Wholesale companies. However, it is unfortunate that the DA only acts when the problem is out of hand,” he added.
Meanwhile, the peasant group also demanded the fast-tracking of the country’s cross-border facilities to help cordon off and secure major borders from the entry of contraband and smuggled products.