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DA tightens control on imported agricultural products

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) wants a 100 percent strip search of all reefer vans and refrigerated containers passing through customs as part of the government’s three-point program to curb the smuggling of vegetables and other farm products into the country.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said a complete search would add teeth to the government’s campaign against smuggling. He said such searches would prevent the illegal entry of imported cheap agricultural products that compete with local produce.

“The government – through the DA and other concerned agencies and offices – remains committed to protect the interests of Filipino farmers and legitimate importers,” Yap said.

“Smuggling not only threatens the existence of local agricultural providers, but also translates into loss of much-needed revenues that could have been used to provide additional services on education, health, housing and other poverty alleviation programs of the government,” he said.

To clamp down on vegetable smuggling, the DA, through the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), has teamed up with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for a three-point program that involves strictly implementing quarantine rules – including the conduct of pest risk analysis on new vegetable imports; conducting a thorough review of ship manifesto and import permits; and accrediting agriculture industry representatives in all ocular inspections of imported farm and fishery shipments.

“We have been proposing that the Customs bureau conduct a 100 percent strip search or full examination of all reefer vans and refrigerated containers,” he said.

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As a result of the DA-BOC team-up, 96 40-foot containers of illegally imported crop commodities have so far been intercepted by authorities.

“One of the most recent results of this partnership,” Yap said, “was the apprehension by Plant Quarantine Staff of 4x40 container vans of onions without the required plant quarantine clearance at the Manila International Container Port in January this year.”

To further curb smuggling, the DA continues to tap non-government organizations such as the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (Agap) and Alyansa Agrikultura to help the government accredit agriculture industry representatives from farmers and fisherfolk organizations in all ocular inspections of imported shipments of agriculture and fishery products to be conducted by the DA, whether in the port of destination or in cold storage facilities and warehouses.

Yap acknowledged “ we cannot do all these alone.”

He admitted, “we need the help and cooperation of the various domestic industries to stop the smuggling of vegetables and other products into our country. The most effective response to smuggling are better laws, efficient implementation of laws, improved system of trading, a responsive bureaucracy, and supportive industry players – all of which should be supported by a system that nurtures good governance and genuinely promotes the welfare of Filipino farmers.”

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