Sinag: P200-B worth of agri products smuggled

ROSALES— Close to P200-billion worth of agricultural goods were smuggled into the country in the last five years made possible by the collusion between corrupt government officials and unscrupulous traders

This was how the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) described the unabated smuggling of agricultural commodities in the country.

SINAG Chairman Rosendo So said the same modus operandi and the same personalities involved in smuggling, undervaluation, mis-declaration that allowed technical smuggling to continue.

He added they continue to find this in the importation/trade of pork, rice, chicken, onion and garlic.

He said the smuggling continues to flourish because those who benefit are never prosecuted and those who allow smuggling to prosper are not punished either, despite the enactment of new laws to combat smuggling of agricultural products.

So said since last year, SINAG has been pushing the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to review importers applying for accreditation, since it (BIR) will have the updated data on sales and equity of an importer – that is operating at least two years.

“Only those with legitimate financial standing in the last two years, at the least, should be accredited as importer. Smugglers are not legitimate importers,” he said.

So said trade partners of the Philippines reported that they exported some 62.7 million kilos of garlic in 2016 but the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), reported, however, that the country imported only 58.7 million kilos of garlic.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) reported garlic import arrival in 2016 at 72.5 million kilos, while the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) placed the garlic imports at 47.6 million kilos.

He stressed, “Three government agencies reporting three different garlic importation figures – and quite different from the record of our trading partners only means one thing – smuggling is still here and thriving”.

So said the recent garlic price spikes were being blamed by the government on the inability of importers to import garlic “but import data from the BOC, however, would reveal that we have actually imported 5 million kilos more for this year than last year”.

He said local garlic producers are still struggling from the 25-year policy of wanton garlic importation and smuggling in lieu of domestic production.

“With only 7.5 per cent of the country’s garlic requirements produced locally, importers/smugglers and traders that form the garlic cartel continue to dictate prices since there is no significant local production to counter the steep price of imported/smuggled garlic,” he added.

The SINAG chairman recommended the adoption of a series of actions for the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bureau of Plant Industry, DA-Bureau of Animal Industry, National Food Authority and/or the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to combat the smuggling of agri products. (Tita Roces)