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Agri-fishery vs smuggling

The Department of Agriculture will intensify efforts to weed out corruption from the agency, as Agriculture Secretary William Dar said they are ready to file administrative charges against DA officials involved in the smuggling of agricultural products.

“We strongly condemn smuggling, which deprives our farmers and fishers of their incomes and livelihood,” Dar said in a statement.

Dar said the DA has been and is continuously working closely with the Bureau of Customs and other partner agencies in the Sub-Task Group on Economic Intelligence in guarding and strengthening border protection efforts while at the same time providing the much-needed logistics and infrastructure support for local producers.

“While we continue to be vigilant against illegal activities and smuggling of agri-fishery products, these efforts will remain palliative if our border controls remain flimsy,” he added.

Local farmers continue to be impacted by the smuggling of agri-fishery products into the country. In particular, vegetable farmers from Benguet said they have been seeing a decline in the orders for their carrots amid the influx of smuggled carrots from China, saying they are losing an estimated P2.5 million a day.

Meanwhile, Dar also called on lawmakers to provide budgetary support that would allow the BOC and DA to transition to a centralized digital system to fight smuggling.

“If everything is automated, and there’s less human intervention, there is transparency at all levels of transactions,” he said as he advocated a centralized digital system as one of the pillars in their “OneDA” Reform Agenda, which would address discrepancies in data.

Filipino farmers and fishers who are already struggling with productivity due to lack of support and access to financing have been dealing with smuggling as one of their biggest and most unfair competitors. Aside from illegal smugglers, they also have to face importation policies that can be quite unfair to farmers, such as the burning issue the sugar industry is facing with its own Sugar Regulatory Administration.

Having a Department of Agriculture that is hell-bent on going after smugglers would be a welcome development for the country’s agri-fishery sector that continues to underperform even if it has the potential to be so much more productive and profitable if only it had more support from its own government.*

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