Imported veggies floodmarkets; Benguet farmers face bleak Christmas

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Farmers’ groups of this vegetable-producing province face a bleak Christmas saying influx of imported agricultural caused heavy losses to them and traders.

This, as personnel of the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Bureau of Customs, Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group, and representatives of vegetable growers conducted last week surprise visits to cold-storage facilities and stalls in Divisoria, Manila to look into the reported influx of smuggled fresh vegetables in the country.

The visit was in response to complaints of Benguet farmers that imported and smuggled vegetables have been flooding the markets.

During the visit, the three government teams confiscated 67 cartons of smuggled fresh ginger from one of the stall owners.

The government does not allow the importation of fresh ginger, and the BPI has not issued a single permit for its importation.

Plant Industry Director Joel S. Rudinas said the vigilance of the BPI’s Plant Quarantine Service Office to intercept smuggled commodities has resulted in the confiscation of 60 40-foot container vans and re-export this year to Hong Kong of one 40-foot container van containing fresh brocolli.

These actions, Rudinas said, led to the blacklisting of five importers.

The BPI director confirmed that only few permits for the importation of fresh vegetables are being issued to meet the needs of high-end markets such as hotels, airlines, and upscale supermarkets.

Comparing the figures this year with those in the same period last year, there was slight increase in the number of permits issued for fresh vegetables, the BPI said.

Meanwhile, affected traders are getting their vegetable supplies at the trading post in La Trinidad.

Officers of the Benguet Farmers Federation and its chapters in the 13 towns in the province said last week traders buying locally grown crops have reduced sharply their purchases, resulting to huge losses.

The most affected locally grown vegetables by the influx of the imported crops are carrots and potatoes.

The federation reported the presence of cheap imported vegetables in Metro Manila markets, saying this would lead to a bleak Christmas for the farmers as their produce would no longer be purchased by the traders.

The group said imported vegetables began flooding the markets since last month on a staggered basis, and now its negative effects are being felt in the province.

Imported vegetables are sold not only in Metro Manila markets but also in Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Boracay, and other urban areas in Visayas and Mindanao.

The officers said storage areas in Metro Manila included those in Tondo, Divisoria and Malabon, where huge warehouses are located.

Many traders have reduced the volume of their purchases by at least 50 percent or from 1,000 kilos to a little less than 500 kilos.

Due to the competition between cheap imported vegetables and the locally produced ones, the traders will continue to reduce their purchases in the coming days, the federation said.

The group said unregulated importation and smuggling of agricultural commodities in the past years are being blamed for the moribund situation of the local agriculture industry, which is major source of livelihood for at least 250,000 people. — Dexter A See and BR(NorthernPhilippineTimes)


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