June 21, 2024

Benguet farmers and traders will soon take part in the task force to be formed by the Senate committee of the whole to go against smuggling of agricultural products in the country.
Augusta Balanoy of the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas Inc. (LALVTA) reported other private groups representing farmers, fisherfolk, and traders in the country would compose the task force in coordination with the government.
She said the task force will be a revival of what they have been previously doing to curb smuggling of vegetables and other crops that threaten the agriculture industry.
“The private sector is heavily affected so our dedication and passion to stop smuggling would be unequaled because it is our main source of livelihood. We did that before and it has been effective so there is no reason that it will not be effective now,” Balanoy said.
Balanoy took part in the Senate committee of the whole meeting on March 28, along with other leaders of farmers and traders group in the country who expressed their dismay on the government’s slow action particularly the Bureau of Customs, Department of Agriculture, and Bureau of Plant Industry in stopping the smuggling of agricultural products that found their way in the local markets.
Balanoy recalled the period during the stint of Gov. Nestor Fongwan Sr. when the provincial government had a representative stationed at the main markets in Manila to monitor smuggled vegetables.
The provincial government representative coordinated with other private groups in the country representing producers and traders of agricultural products where each group would write its own complaint and submit accompanying data to the government every time there was a reported entry of smuggled vegetables.
The private groups, with their representatives, would then coordinate with the government officers of BOC, BPI and DA where the task force would conduct inspection in cold storages and markets. It would be up to the BOC then to file charges against those apprehended.  
“Before, when we complained, smuggling stopped. Now, we have been complaining for nine months and nothing is happening. It has even become rampant and brazen,” Balanoy said.
Before, smugglers would only bring out the smuggled products at night time to prevent detection from authorities. In recent months up to now, cartons of smuggled agriculture products with markings “fresh produce from China” are on display throughout the day at the local markets.
Based on the LALVTA data, the volume of smuggled carrots doubled from 20 percent in 2021 to 40 percent this year despite the claims that there are confiscations being conducted by government agencies.
The group members said they have an average loss of 30 percent due to the volume of smuggled carrots equivalent to P2.5 million per day, which is a huge loss for the farmers.
During the Senate meeting which was live streamed on Facebook, Alyansa Agrikultura president Ernesto Ordoñez pushed for the tapping of the private sector as part of the anti-smuggling task force.
Ordoñez, who was also part of the earlier created private-government task force, argued the private sector knows the agricultural trade better than the government.
Balanoy said a meeting will soon be set by the Senate together with the private sector to push for the creation of the task force against smuggling of agricultural products. – Ofelia C. Empian