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Probe on online sale of smuggled onions sought

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Probe on online sale of smuggled onions sought
“I received complaints from local onion farmers that they have been losing money because the farmgate price of their products is very low. They are worried that time will come when they can no longer sell onions because it is available online at much cheaper prices,” Lee said.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The rampant online selling of smuggled onions and other agricultural products must be investigated by the House of Representatives as it is detrimental to local farmers’ livelihood and consumers’ health, according to AGRI party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee.

“I received complaints from local onion farmers that they have been losing money because the farmgate price of their products is very low. They are worried that time will come when they can no longer sell onions because it is available online at much cheaper prices,” Lee said.

In House Resolution 1600 Lee authored, he said there is a need to “take decisive action and measures... amid the online selling of smuggled onions.”

Citing data from farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, he noted that farmers are already incurring losses as onions’ farmgate price is pegged at P28 per kilo when the production costs stand at P30 per kilo.

They also received complaints from consumers who bought products online, he recalled.

“They cannot return the products to the seller. The Department of Agriculture earlier reported that there were smuggled onions confiscated that were positive for E. coli,” he said, referring to a bacteria that can cause infections in the gut.

Smuggled items do not go through phytosanitary tests so their safety is not guaranteed, Lee warned.

Although he could not blame people who buy products online to save money, he noted there are health risks associated with it.

Lee asked the Department of Trade and Industry and other relevant agencies to implement more stringent measures to curb the online sale of illegally sourced agricultural products.

He also pushed for the immediate passage of his proposed bill to amend the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, imposing heftier fines against smugglers, hoarders, price manipulators, cartels and government officials and employees involved in this crime, which is considered economic sabotage.

“Smuggling is the reason why our farmers are going into bankruptcy,” he said.

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