LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Regional agriculture officials and agriculture industry stakeholders welcomed the initiative of the Senate for Congress to exercise its oversight powers in conducting an inquiry on the proliferation of smuggling of agricultural crops that directly compete with locally produced ones that tend to heavily impact on the farmers.
DA-CAR regional executive director Dr. Cameron Odsey stated that recent reports in the alleged entry of imported strawberries from Korea that forced some buyers from the different parts of the country to back out from their supply agreement with local strawberry farmers should be investigated to ascertain the legality of the entry of the same.
However, initially, upon verification with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), he claimed that the importation of fruits has been allowed and that strawberry is classified as a fruit.
Ironically, the DA-CAR official stipulated that what should be investigated is the alleged misdeclaration of the agricultural products such as vegetables and fruits as ornamentals which is already considered as technical smuggling punishable under existing laws, rules and regulations.
Earlier, the Agricultural Modernization Act considers the smuggling of agricultural crops as economic sabotage.
Director Odsey pointed out that it is really the local farmers who will suffer from the unabated smuggling of agricultural crops because most of their buyers prefer to buy the good-looking imported agricultural crops over the locally produced ones that are even more expensive.
According to him, local strawberry farmers were able to establish their supposed market in the Visayas but the same suddenly backed out of their deal following the arrival of alleged imported strawberries from Korea that is why they sought the assistance of concerned lawmakers and various government agencies to contain the further damage that the smuggling and importation of agricultural crops will inflict on the country’s lucrative agriculture industry.
He explained that in such cases, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has the jurisdiction on the same, especially that the issues and concerns related to the smuggling of agricultural crops from other countries where the same must be stricter in closely monitoring the illegal activities if accredited importers to be able to contain the entry of crops that directly compete with locally produced ones that will be detrimental to the desire of the local farmers to earn bigger income for the sale of their produce.
Local agriculture industry stakeholders raised concern on the alleged unabated entry of smuggled and imported agricultural crops that tend to compete with locally produced ones which caused a significant decline in the prevailing market prices that resulted in heavy losses on the part of the farmers.
Odsey revealed that farmers must continue looking for more potential markets in the different parts of the country to be able to market their produce as there are still untapped markets that will serve as a buffer for whatever will be the impact of the continuous smuggling and importation of agricultural crops that come from the different parts of the world.
He expressed the agency’s support for the creation of a local anti-smuggling task force that will closely monitor the entry of smuggled or imported agricultural crops in the country to be able to sustain the prevailing buying prices of locally produced ones that will be beneficial to the interest of the farmers. By Dexter A. See