‘Stop veggie smuggling’

CORDILLERA farmers were given assurance by the Department of Agriculture that entry of illegal vegetables in the country will stop.

DA Secretary Manny Piñol during a recent farmers meeting in La Trinidad, Benguet assured farmers the government is closely monitoring the entry of illegal vegetables in the country which competes with locally grown produce and eats up farmers’ earning.

“We are working closely with Bureau of Customs closely. We will stop smuggling at all cost,” said the DA secretary.

Piñol added the government is pushing for self reliance in terms of vegetable produce and rice to help uplift lives of farmers.

“Kung ano ang kayang itinanim ng magsasakang Pilipino, sa kanila natin bibilhin, hindi tayo mag-iimport,” added Piñol.

Farmers in Benguet and the rest of the Cordilleras have been complaining that low-priced vegetables from China, Taiwan and Singapore are being dumped in the country.

These imported onions, carrots, and potatoes are being sold cheap in markets nationwide because they have not been paid tariff and customs duties according to farmers.

Meanwhile, Benguet representative Ronald Cosalan said there is a need for the national government to put in place safety nets that will also help farmers compete against legally imported products.

Cosalan said while the country is bracing for the full implementation of the Asean Economic Integration, the province’s vegetable industry is feeling the brunt of importation, whether legal or illegal.

Some safety nets being pushed by Cosalan include giving subsidy to farmers and construction of more farm to market roads for easier transport of produce.

“Our farmers need subsidy to be able to compete with other countries that have well subsidized products,” said Cosalan.

Another he said is the provision of soft loans, access to modern farm implements and government subsidy to farmers.

Cosalan said while the country cannot compete against other country’s that subsidize their farmers, Benguet vegetables have been known to be of high quality which are also being exported outside the country.

“We have to improve and build more roads to reduce production costs of the farmers which includes repair of vehicles and more time of travel. If the roads are good, they would not raise their vegetables that much,” he added. (Roderick Osis)

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