Agri dep’t urged to suspend imports of meat, vegetables

A vendor is seen attending to her produce and vegetables stall in Quiapo Market, Manila. AP

MANILA – An agricultural group has called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to suspend the importation of meat, chicken, and vegetables, saying that backyard raisers are experiencing a deficit in the market and are forced to sell their products at cost or at a loss.

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) was also joined by senatorial bet and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos in urging the DA to address the over-importation of pork and chicken meat, which they said are hurting the local industry.

SINAG chairman Rosendo So, in a statement, urged the government to safeguard the local meat industry so it does not die.

So cited data in 2016 that chicken importation stood at 232 million kilos, which went up to 244 million kilos in 2017 and rose by almost 30 percent to 310 million kilos last year.

Meanwhile, imported pork totaled 275 million kilos in 2016. Its volume increased to 305 million kilos in 2017 and to 387 million kilos in 2018.

“Our backyard raisers are selling at cost, and sometimes even at a loss. Some have been selling chicken at P50 per kilo when their investment is P70 per kilo,” So said.

A poultry group has earlier expressed dismay at the influx of imported chicken in the country, saying it has caused the local industry huge losses.

For her part, Marcos said took notice of the rampant smuggling of agricultural products to the detriment of the local growers and farmers.

“We should suspend importation to give our local and backyard raisers breathing space to recover their losses. There’s already an oversupply of pork and chicken,” she added.

“Are we going to accept this as a national policy? Bagsak ang presyo ng karneng baboy at manok. This is affecting our backyard raisers which comprise 65 percent of the total industry,” Marcos said.

The Ilocos Norte governor said the government should not resort to importing a million kilos of chicken and meat because the country is not experiencing famine.

The senatorial aspirant, likewise, advised the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and DA to be vigilant against the entry of imported meat from countries with incidence of African swine fever.

“Customs agents must look out for the possible entry of meat products from countries affected by the African swine fever. These products pose serious health hazards to our people and can potentially hurt our local meat industry further,” she said.

Earlier this month, the BOC said meat products from countries with African swine flu infestation were among the agricultural products seized at Davao International Airport during the Christmas holidays.

Marcos also urged the DA and the BOC to intensify their campaign against large-scale smuggling of agricultural products, citing Republic Act 10845, or the “Act Declaring Large-Scale Agricultural Smuggling as Economic Sabotage.”

“Rampant large-scale smuggling of agricultural products robs our local growers and farmers of their incomes. Smuggling or illicit trade of agricultural products is a major constraint to economic growth, and it affects job creation in rural areas, where majority of our poor Filipinos reside,” Marcos said. (GMA News)


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