Smuggled Carrots Enter Philippine Markets

Smuggled carrots are up for sale in the market (WikimediaCommons/Domdomegg)
Smuggled carrots are up for sale in the market. (WikimediaCommons/Domdomegg)

Smuggled carrots believed to come from China worry authorities and farmers. It’s not just about the pesticide that clings to the root crops. They are also concerned about the price.

In the past few days, carrot price in the market has gone down. Consumers are happy knowing that they can buy more with their meager budget. The question is, is it worth it?

Smuggled agricultural products such as carrots don’t undergo quarantine inspections and may carry several diseases. The first case of African swine fever in the Philippines came from the smuggled contaminated meat from China. It is also where the smuggled carrots originated.

Don’t Buy Vegetables Yet.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar announced publicly to stop buying vegetables in the meantime. He asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to immediately investigate the smuggled carrots sold in the market. The probe also extends to other vegetables, including ginger and cabbage. The agency has no means of knowing how many pesticide residues the vegetables contain.

Additionally, the agency still doesn’t have an idea how many smuggled carrots entered the country. The agriculture secretary didn’t disregard the odds of this large-scale smuggling operation, especially if the trafficked vegetables arrive daily.

Smuggled Carrots Sneaked In Via Subic Port

The smuggled carrots could have entered the country through Subic port in Zambales. Dar noted that the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) didn’t issue import permits for the smuggled vegetables and mistakenly declared them “other items.”

On the other hand, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) compelled the House of Representatives to investigate the case of smuggled vegetables.

“It is within their mandate to prevent the smuggling of agricultural products. However, ‘legitimate imports’ and smuggled products go through the same processes and mechanisms. Massive importation of agricultural products makes it easier for smugglers to do business,” KMP Chairman Emeritus Rafael V. Mariano said.

Mariano added that vast volumes of declared smuggled carrots multiply in the market. It is according to different vegetable trading organizations and cooperatives. He stressed that the DA and Bureau of Customs (BoC) must be held responsible for smuggled vegetables.

Farmers and Cooperatives are Complaining

The Alyansa Dagiti Pesante Ti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT-TAKO) also expressed their disappointment. They said that, at times, farmers would throw their crops because of spoilage. No buyers or traders will buy the farmers’ harvests at reasonable prices. Smuggled products are maybe cheaper. But local farmers no longer earn and are broke.

Moreover, the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas objected that there are putative smuggled carrots deliveries to Carbon Market in Cebu City each week. The vegetables sell only at ₱50/kg.

An inter-agency task force consisting of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bureau of Internal Revenue, BoC, and DA will investigate further the incident.

Contraband Onions Seized in Cagayan De Oro

Meanwhile, another incident of smuggled vegetables happened in Cagayan de Oro this month. The BoC of the said city seized ₱13.5 million worth of smuggled onions in Bukidnon. The agency burned and buried the bulbs in a pit inside a destruction facility.

The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service CDO (CIIS-CDO) received a report about the onion shipment. It’s intentionally misdeclared as “cream cheese” and “frozen puff pastries”. It arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal Sub-port with JDFallar Consumer Goods Trading as the consignee.