Onion smugglers at it again — agri alliance

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2015 - 12:00am

READERS REACT to developing Muslim Mindanao even without Bangsamoro Basic Law (Gotcha, 6 Mar. 2015):

Luis Antonio Gutierrez: “Those advocating war should be first to send their sons and daughters to the frontlines.”

Boy Lojo, Lipa City: “The first step to peace in Mindanao is for the various Moro groups to settle differences among themselves. Then the government can negotiate. There should be no deadlines to the tedious process, unlike what P-Noy and the MILF impose.”

Pete S. Lonzame: “We already have the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, constitutionally formed. It has been there for 15 years now, with democratically elected officials. Yet P-Noy calls it a ‘failed experiment,’ in favor of his BBL. Disburse the BBL’s P75 billion through ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, monitored of course by the Commission on Audit, not through the likes of the MILF’s Ebrahim Murad and Mohagher Iqbal. Also, replace our form of government to federal-parliamentary, with the 17 regions to be the sub-states.”

Antonio Wee: “Now the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has a breakaway Justice for Islam Movement. Why can’t the P-Noy admin open its eyes? There can be no peace because a new Moro rebel group will just pop out of nowhere.”

To MRT-3 packing in train riders like sardines (Gotcha, 4 Mar. 2015):

Sergio Peñaflor: “’Coaches designed to take in 394 passengers are overloaded up to a perilous 500,’ you wrote. I ride the MRT-3 every day to work. Ever since they increased fares Jan. 4, I noticed, ridership has dropped by about a fifth. The reason could be convenience and parity. Short-distance riders now avoid sardine-packed trains, since there are buses anyway that are half empty. This is to the comfort of end-to-end riders, and increased revenues for the government.”

To P-Noy causing the Mamasapano fiasco by entrusting the commando operation to suspended friend PNP chief Alan Purisima:

Jose Dado: “P-Noy is responsible as Commander-in-Chief. He used the PNP-SAF instead of the AFP, which has Army Scout Rangers, armored vehicles, artillery, and fighter aircraft. He directed the operation with no military expertise. He kept out of the loop Interior Sec. Roxas, Defense Sec. Gazmin, and AFP Gen. Catapang.”

Rodolfo Kintanar: “The MRT-3 mess, the Mamasapano debacle, the BBL – they all stem from Manuel L. Quezon preferring a government run like hell by Filipinos than one like heaven by colonizers.”

*      *      *

Onion smugglers are repeating their 2014 racket. They again have sneaked in millions of kilos from China and Europe. Warehouses are full. Result: during this month’s domestic harvest, farm-gate prices in Central Luzon obscenely are so low.

Last week in Nueva Ecija, farmers were begging traders to buy at P10-P12 per kilo of white onion, and P7-P9 for the red variety. So reports the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag).

And yet, retail rates in public and supermarkets remain high, at P35-P40 a kilo.

Crisis is setting in, Sinag president Rosendo So warns. Despite the onion farmers’ dirt-cheap selling prices, there hardly are any takers. Produce are rotting in barangay storage, So reports.

Meanwhile the smugglers are fixing the pass-on price to retailers.

The Customs bureau has admitted that illegal shipments of onion – and rice – have slipped through ports in the Visayas and Mindanao, So discloses. That’s exactly what the smugglers did this same time last year.

Farm-gate prices should not fall below P12 per kilo of white onion, and P15 for red, So notes from years of supply-demand-price trending. (Red commands higher rates because spicier and longer lasting.) Retail should not exceed P25 per kilo of both varieties. Yet everything’s gone haywire because a crime syndicate reigns.

The same onion syndicate smuggles garlic, and fixes prices of ginger and selected vegetables. Last year the gang greedily over-imported garlic at P12-P16 a kilo, depressing local harvest prices to the same levels. Having full control of supply, it then passed on to retailers at P300-P320 a kilo. Consumers had to pay up to P340 a kilo of the all-important spice.

Congress investigators traced the scam to corrupt agriculture officials. Malacañang sacked the Director for Plant Industry designated by Sec. Proceso Alcala to license the importer-smugglers. But Alcala was retained, despite his defending the smugglers as “good guys.”

Local onion farmers produced 134 million kilos in 2013, official records show. Imports supposedly accounted for 8.5 million kilos.

The latter figure is false, however, Sinag eventually found out from UN trade reports. China alone recorded exporting to the Philippines 11.5 million kilos, the European Union another 2.8 million, and India 629,000 kilos, nearly 15 million kilos in all.

Having mastered the art of timing, agri-thieves are at it again – while the nation’s attention is elsewhere, on Mamasapano and the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

 Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com.

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