THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is investigating Chinese carrots found on the market on suspicion of smuggling, as the vegetable is not widely cleared for import beyond certain special varieties for use in top hotels.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that a visit to the Tanauan City Farmers Market in Batangas on Tuesday turned up boxes of carrots from China sold for P35 per kilo.

He said carrots are not among the agricultural items covered by the sanitary and pythosanitary permits which the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) issues for the importation of agricultural goods.

The BPI issues import clearances for a small volume of carrots intended for the exclusive use of five-star hotels.

“There could only be one explanation and that is smuggling. I assume there was a misdeclaration of the volume of carrots imported,” said Mr. Piñol in a Wednesday social media post.

Mr. Piñol said a team from the DA is investigating the matter, with findings expected by Friday.

“I assure our farmers that heads will roll,” Mr. Piñol added while also assuring that any official from the DA found involved will be “punished severely.”

Mr. Piñol said he is also set to meet Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor E. Faeldon to jointly draw up strategies that will prevent the illegal entry of agricultural goods. — Janina C. Lim