SMUGGLED Chinese vegetables have entered the market via Subic port, such as carrots and cabbage, and must be avoided because of the uncertainty regarding their pesticide content, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

At a virtual briefing Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said that the shipments had been misdeclared as “other items.”

“The best thing we can do, meanwhile, is not to buy (the smuggled vegetables) since we do not know their content in terms of pesticide residue,” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar said the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) did not issue import permits for the smuggled vegetables.

The BPI only issues import permits for frozen mixed vegetables and processed vegetables “intended for embassies and hotels,” he said.  

“The BPI continues to work with the Bureau of Customs (BoC). We will confiscate all smuggled vegetables,” Mr. Dar said.

Agriculture spokesman Noel O. Reyes said at a Laging Handa briefing Monday that a task force was created to check into the entry of smuggled vegetables, consisting of representatives from the DA, BoC, Department of Trade and Industry, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.  

In a separate statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a farm workers’ organization, urged the House of Representatives to check into the smuggling of vegetables.

KMP Chairman Emeritus Rafael V. Mariano called on the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to arrange for the detection of imported carrots and other vegetables in markets, and to exercise its oversight powers under Republic Act No. 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.  

“This month, a large volume of allegedly smuggled fresh carrots were seen proliferating in markets nationwide, according to various vegetable trading associations and cooperatives,” the KMP said.

“In August, farmers, and traders called the attention of the DA to contraband cabbages being distributed in the Divisoria market in Metro Manila at P70 per kilogram, much lower than the price of Benguet cabbage, which sells for P115 to P125 per kilogram,” it added.

Mr. Mariano said the DA and the BoC should be held accountable for the smuggling of vegetables.

“It is within their mandate to prevent the smuggling of agricultural products. However, ‘legitimate imports’ and smuggled produce go through the same processes and mechanisms. Massive importation of agricultural products makes it easier for smugglers to do business,” Mr. Mariano said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave