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Smuggling of farm goods thriving

Group cites P37-B disparity between UN, PH import data

Despite various anti-smuggling hearings conducted last year, trafficking in contraband agricultural goods continued to thrive with some P37.45 billion worth of commodities spirited into the Philippines in 2014, according to the Samahang Industriy ng Agrikultura (Sinag).

“Smuggling of all kinds of agriculture products is economic sabotage and the government must take decisive action against smugglers,” Sinag chair Rosendo So said in an interview on Tuesday.

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The umbrella group of farmers, agribusiness operators and party-list groups noted that discrepancies in statistics related to Philippine importation from the United Nations and from government agencies such as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) showed the continuing menace of smuggling.

“Agriculture, as the country’s biggest employer, is essential to rural livelihoods, income generation and poverty reduction,” said So. “It’s time that we see concrete action against smuggling, beyond mere investigations.”

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Citing data from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade), Sinag said the Philippines imported 2.3 million tons of milled rice in 2014. However, data from the BOC listed only 1.58 million tons.

“That suggests some 721,000 tons may have been smuggled into the country,” he said. “At P1,500 per 50-kilogram bag, that’s P21.63 billion worth of contraband rice.”

Also, the UN Comtrade listed 107.7 million kilos of pig meat shipped into the Philippines while the BOC recorded 57.4 million kilos. At P175 a kilo, the difference of 50.26 million kilos would be worth P8.8 billion of smuggled pork, according to Sinag.

For garlic, the UN Comtrade recorded 69.6 million kilos coming in while the BOC listed 29.66 million kilos. At P100 a kilo of garlic, the smuggled shipments cost a total of about P4 billion, Sinag said.

For chicken meat, the UN Comtrade monitored 193.27 million kilos while the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) recorded 177.93 million kilos. The disparity of 15.3 million kilos of smuggled chicken would be worth P1.9 billion at P125 a kilo, according to Sinag.

For buffalo meat, the UN Comtrade recorded 44.98 million kilos against the BAI’s 40.76 million kilos. At P250 a kilo, 4.21 million kilos of smuggled buffalo meat were worth 1.05 billion, Sinag added.

Finally, the UN Comtrade listed 11.32 million kilos of onion against the government’s 9.05 million kilos. At P50 a kilo, 2.27 million kilos of hot onion would be valued at P113.5 million, according to Sinag.

“As smuggled products flood the local market and drive down prices, the illicit trade robs our rural folk of jobs and livelihood,” Sinag’s So said.

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TAGS: agricultural products, Agriculture, Philippines, Smuggling
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