Market surveillance | Farmers urge government to support Filipino farmers amid massive contraband and import issues


By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
Market watch
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Consumer groups have expressed disappointment at the government’s decision to step up food imports amid massive smuggling of agricultural products and low land productivity.

In a statement, the Pamalakaya fishermen’s group said Agriculture Secretary William Dar “still resorts to imports as a solution to scarcity and inflation.”

“The Ministry of Agriculture never learns. Whenever there is an alleged shortage, the default solution is to flood our market with imported fish. However, this measure never and never resolves the crisis in our fishery production that occurs every year, ”said Pamalakaya spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo.

The statement was echoed by women farmer group Amihan and consumer group Bantay Bigas as they urged farmers and food producers to collectively pressure the government to address the continuing trend of low prices to the production of the palay and stop the smuggling of plant products such as carrots in the local market.

Smuggled vegetables

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas demanded that the Customs Office tackle large-scale vegetable smugglers and not just small retailers.

“The stalls only distribute. Those who need to be caught and urgently punished are those who are facilitating the entry of huge volumes of contraband vegetables. The government should inspect warehouses, not just market stalls, ”said KMP President Emeritus Rafael Mariano.

The statement came after the BOC seized £ 4.8million ($ 94,000) of smuggled carrots, garlic and other agricultural products on September 30.

The peasant leader insisted that this was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. “If three small stalls can sell huge amounts of contraband vegetables, what can the warehouses sell? Mariano, also a former land reform secretary, asked.

The group cited a 2014 SEARCA study, which estimated the value of smuggled agricultural products in the Philippines at $ 52 billion, on average, per year from 1986 to 2009.

“The money shouldn’t stop with these stalls. Their suppliers should be aggressively hunted down and punished as economic saboteurs, ”demanded the former secretary for Agrarian Reform.

Import

KMP also pointed out that the increase in smuggling is a direct consequence of the increase in imports.

“Contraband goes through the same processes and the same vessels as legal importation. As agricultural trade is further liberalized, technical smuggling – misrepresentation, undervaluation and misclassification – also becomes easier. Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s continued orientation to ‘import, import, import’ is also responsible, ”the group said.

Pamalakaya also expressed disappointment at the government’s plans to import 60,000 tonnes of galunggong, bonito, among other pelagic fish, which are expected to enter the country this month.

The fishermen’s group argued that imported fish, which can be sold in local public markets at a very low price, is a “threat to the livelihoods of Filipino fishermen, as imported fish outnumber their fishery products. and the sea “.

“Fishermen lose money every time imported goods flood the markets. Due to the low value of imports, fishermen are pressured to lower the price of their catch… otherwise no one will buy them, ”Arambulo explained.

Likewise, the SEARCA study noted that smuggling increased dramatically and more rapidly after 1995, the year the Philippines joined the World Trade Organization that pushed for “free trade”. He also estimated that rice smuggling into the country was at its highest level in 2008 after then-president Gloria Arroyo lifted rice import quotas.

Liberalization

In the same vein, RA 11203, or the law on the liberalization of rice, would be the cause of the drop in farm gate prices to a new low.

Bantay Bigas spokeswoman Cathy Estavillo exclaimed that the livelihoods of rice farmers are being devastated as the sector becomes “fully liberalized” or private traders completely dominate the purchase of palay and dictate prices. to production.

“Farmers are already suffering from the very low price of bread. Its price only reached P10 – P14.50 ($ 0.20 – $ 0.30) per kilo. Meanwhile, when it hits the market, its going price climbs to at least P38 – P44 ($ 0.75 – $ 0.87) per kilo and P42.50 – P45 ($ 0.84 – 0.89 $) for imported rice, ”added Estavillo.

Amihan and Bantay Bigas urged Filipino food producers to organize and make their voices heard by urging the government to immediately end the smuggling of agricultural products and support local production as a strategic step towards self-sufficiency and food security.

“The long-term solution here is to repeal the Rice Liberalization Law and the Agricultural Liberalization Policy, and fully support farmers and the agricultural sector so that we can achieve national food security based on self-sufficiency and self-sufficiency, ”Estavillo said.

KMP’s Mariano also suggested that while the seizure of contraband vegetables was a welcome development, it shouldn’t end there.

“A legislative investigation is the least we can do to expose the extent of our agricultural smuggling problem today, especially after the promulgation and implementation of the Rice Liberalization Law,” he said. he concludes. (JJE, RTS) (https://www.bulatlat.com)


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