April 23, 2024

Smuggled vegetables allegedly from China are being sold in various local markets at lower prices posing serious threats on the local vegetable industry, especially Benguet.
This was underscored by the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas, Inc. in its letter dated Sept. 23 to the Bureau of Customs through Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
The group has requested the BOC to stop the smuggling of imported vegetables particularly carrot and cabbage varieties. 
The group said its members were alarmed that smuggled carrots and cabbages are being sold in Manila and other provinces in the country.
Clients of the group in Divisoria said last month, imported carrots and cabbages were sold there at P70 and P60 a kilo, respectively.
These vegetables are being unloaded usually at dawn, in Binondo, fronting the Divisoria mall, according to the letter of the group to the BOC.
As a result, carrots and cabbages from Benguet, Mountain Province, and Ifugao that are transported to the greater Manila area from the La Trinidad vegetable trading post are not being bought by regular clients as these are sold at P85 to P115 a kilo.
Local vegetable farmers are left with no option but to agree to drop the prices of their produce to P25 to P30 a kilo last month if only to convince their clients from Manila to purchase locally-produced vegetables.
The group also informed the BOC that smuggled vegetables are being kept in cold storages located within Divisoria and are distributed to buyers every time the price of highland vegetables goes beyond P40 per kilogram.
Some Manila buyers who used to purchase two to three tons of cabbage and eight tons of carrots daily are now purchasing 200 kilos only.
Augusta Balanoy, manager of the Hi-Land Farmers’ Multipurpose Cooperative, said the Bureau of Plant Industry has confirmed it did not release any permit for legal importation of cabbages and carrots.
This means the vegetables from China are either misdeclared or undeclared when entering the country’s ports.
Balanoy said they received reports that at least four container vans of smuggled carrots are delivered weekly at Carbon Market in Cebu and are being distributed to various markets.
The group has showed samples of carrots from China which are more slender, clean, and firm. The carrot would take more than a month rot unlike vegetables from Benguet that would naturally wither within three days. 
In 2007, the group also campaigned against the flooding of smuggled vegetables in the local markets.
The group also took samples of carrots from China for testing at Benguet State University.
Balanoy said tests showed that the carrots contained traces of formalin, which is the saturated solution of formaldehyde in water, used to preserve the vegetable. Also, upon boiling the samples, it didn’t soften as it should be when cooked.  
The group is composed of 11 associations of the stakeholders of the Cordillera vegetable industry. – Ofelia C. Empian