Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri has urged the Department of Agriculture (DA( to limit imports of agricultural products and penalize technical smuggling to help local farmers.
“I’m speaking on behalf of our corn farmers here in Bukidnon. The importation of feeds has drastically brought down corn prices. Dried corn is now only P9 or P8 per kilo. That’s too low,” he noted during the recent Senate hearing on the DA budget.
Zubiri said he is “not totally averse to imports, but we need to time it so that our local farmers do not compete with imported produce.” He also raised concerns from hog and poultry raisers.
“It has been a difficult time for our hog and poultry raisers. There’s the pandemic, and on top of that, they are also still trying to rise from the damage of the African swine fever (ASF).” Twenty-five provinces have had to deal with ASF, culling, and disposing of 299,375 hogs as of July.
“On top of the ASF and the pandemic, our hog and poultry raisers are also struggling with low prices, because of import dumping and technical smuggling,” he added.
“This happens because some traders abuse our policies. For example, our food processors, when the make luncheon meat or similar products, they could opt to import mechanically deboned chicken, but mix the imported choice cuts and declare tham as deboned for processing,” he said.
“These smuggled products bypass taxes, tariffs, and duties, which is a problem already. And then these illegal imports crowd out our local products. Our poultry and livestock producers are prevented from selling larger volumes to household consumers and food processors,” the senator lamented.
Senator Nancy Binay suggested that perhaps the reason behind the persistence of smuggling in the meat industry is that there have been little or no instances of prosecution for smugglers.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar assured Zubiri the DA has begun working on a strategy to only allow the import of corn during the off-season of the local harvest, and address the others concerns complained about.