A farmers’ group on Monday said selling seized smuggled sugar at Kadiwa centers is akin to promoting illegally imported goods.

“If you promote smuggled goods, this will not help the farmers,” Rosendo O. So, the president of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura or SINAG, said in a phone interview.

The essence of Kadiwa, he said, is to help sell farmers’ products directly to consumers. 

The government has decided to sell at least 12,000 metric tons of seized smuggled sugar at Kadiwa stores.

The Department of Agriculture runs the Kadiwa stores, which sells produce at lower prices.

Destroying the fruits of criminal activities is “easy to implement” for inanimate objects such as cars, but gets tricky with consumable products like sugar, according to Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and political analyst.  

“I understand the thinking that basic food items should be preserved rather than destroyed given the current food challenges many Filipinos are facing,” he said in a message on Facebook.  

“If this is going to be pursued by this admin, then two acts must be done,” he said. “First, the President should issue an executive order to cover this directive. Second, the order should be clear as to the timeline and the intended beneficiaries.”   

Mr. Yusingco added that the “right alternative” is to give the seized products to people who need them or cannot afford to buy them.

“Smuggled goods cannot solve inflation,” SINAG’s Mr. So said, however. “The total volume is not so big that it will influence inflation.” 

Mr. So also said that the long-term strategy for minimizing smuggling is to strengthen the country’s first-border control. 

“The first-border facility should test all cargo coming, which we are not doing,” he said in a phone message.

Smuggled goods are a health concern too, said James A. Layug, DA’s assistant secretary for inspectorate and enforcement. 

Mas importante ay ‘yung food safety issue. Hindi ito dumaan sa tamang proseso. Hindi ho na-inspect o nabigyan ng sanitary phytosanitary clearance (The food safety issue is more important. This is not undergoing the right process. It’s not inspected nor given sanitary phytosanitary clearance),” state-run Philippine News Agency quoted him as saying on March 20.

Kung ikaw consumer, hindi mo naman na titingnan saan galing ito, titingnan mo kung mura (If you’re the consumer, you will no longer check where it came from. You will just look for cheaper prices),” Mr. Layug said. 

A 2022 study from Economist Impact, “Illicit Trade: Scale, Scope and Flows,” reported that identifying illicit goods is problematic, with over 77% of survey respondents struggling to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit products.   

It also found that 53% of respondents in the Philippines said it is acceptable to buy products that serve a person’s needs, regardless of whether they are licit or illicit. — Patricia B. Mirasol