MABALACAT CITY -- A group of farmers has assailed the Department of Agriculture (DA) for allegedly failing to curb vegetable smuggling in the country.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) expressed hopes that 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 was 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,” said Rafael Mariano, KMP's chairperson emeritus.

KMP said DA is acting as if it is ready to pounce on smugglers with its threat to sue two companies involved in smuggling veggies. DA only acts when the problem is out of hand, according to the organization.

“We have seen and heard all of this. Secretary William Dar said the same things with the alleged price manipulators in rice and pork. Magtatayo na naman ng task force. May nasampahan na ba ng kaso? May nakukulong na bang smuggler? (They will build a task force again. Has a case been filed? Is there a smuggler in jail?)” Mariano asked.

House Resolution 2263

The leader claimed that smuggling is the dirty appendage of importation. He suggested that DA conduct random inspections on the storage facilities of the biggest vegetable importers.

“The country has a limited number of agricultural storage facilities, especially those capable of storing huge volumes of undocumented producers. Kilalang-kilala naman ni Secretary Dar iyang mga importer na ‘yan (Secretary Dar knows those importers very well)," he said.

KMP expressed support for House Resolution 2263 filed by the Makabayan bloc for the immediate probe on the proliferation of smuggled carrots and other vegetables in local markets.

Some 47.7 percent of the total global production of carrots comes from China, which is also the top carrot exporter.

Chinese carrots are smooth and shiny, weigh almost one kilo per piece, have no stem and are uniform in size.

Since 2007

Benguet vegetable traders said that this practice of vegetable smuggling from China has been going on since 2007.

Farmers and traders are urging the government to curb vegetable smuggling. Most vegetables coming from China are sold in Cagayan De Oro, Cebu, Iloilo, Bicol, Divisoria and Balintawak.

In 2019, the Bureau of Customs also seized smuggled carrots and onions from China with an estimated worth of ₱53 million.

“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,” Mariano said.

The peasant group also demanded the fast-tracking of the country’s cross-border facilities that will help cordon off and secure major borders to prevent the entry of contraband and smuggled products.

DA first announced the setting-up of five Cold Examination Facility in Agriculture or CEFA in 2018 but constructions remain underway.