Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima called for a Senate investigation into the reported proliferation of smuggled carrots from China in local markets which has detrimental effects on the income and livelihood of local farmers, particularly those in the province of Benguet.
De Lima filed Proposed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 924 stating that Senate is duty-bound to ensure that the government is strictly implementing the law against agricultural smuggling, and provide mechanisms to improve the country’s policy regarding said issue to protect local farmers especially during this time of pandemic.
“The selling of smuggled carrots is detrimental to the local farmers as they are being forced to compete with prices that they cannot match. This results in massive losses in income which severely affects not just the local farmers but also the local farming industry,” she said.
“Moreover, these smuggled carrots translate to millions of pesos in losses to our government in lost customs duties,” added De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
It was recently reported that smuggled carrots from China were being sold in various markets in the Philippines.
According to Augusta Balanoy of the Highland Vegetable Multipurpose Cooperative in La Trinidad, a large volume of foreign carrots was seen in key markets across the country and their investigation showed that small warehouses near Divisoria had been releasing imported vegetables whenever Benguet prices rose.
This severely affected local farmers because of the predatory undercutting of the smuggled carrots which are being sold at ₱25 pesos a kilo while the wholesale price of carrots from Benguet are being sold at ₱50 a kilo.
If unabated, the lady Senator from Bicol said food smuggling will cripple the local food industry, making the country’s economy almost totally dependent on imports.
“This would place our country at the mercy of food producing-countries where they would be able to control the volume and price of goods to be made available to us,” she said.
In times where government should take decisive actions to prevent further loss, De Lima maintained that any form of threat to the economy should be immediately eliminated.
“Local farmers are already struggling from the economic fallouts of trade liberalization but when the pandemic began, their situation worsened. The rise of smuggled vegetables only adds to their worries as they should have been the primary focus of the government’s initiative to stimulate the country’s economy,” she said.
“Such illegal practice hampers not just the livelihoods of the workers in the food and agricultural sectors, but of every Filipino in the long-run. It cripples our efforts towards self-sufficiency in local food supplies. It is not right that our people should go hungry when we are a nation of fertile land resources. This pandemic has shown us that supply crunches in basic necessities requires governments to ensure that their own local supply chains are capable of filling their own local demands. Thus, there should no longer be any doubt that the government ought to prioritize investing in domestic food supply lines through investments in agricultural technology that will promote improvements in the capacities, efficiencies and sustainability of local farmers, fishermen and food industry workers,” she added in a separate statement.
As such, De Lima said that Congress should formulate amendments to existing laws in order to protect local agricultural products and local farmers, and to increase their capacities and improve their capabilities and efficiencies by investing in advancements in AgriTech.
“It is also necessary to strengthen trade laws and agreements, protect local producers and consumers and stabilize the price of agricultural products in the local market,” she added. (30)