A MAN repacks sugar in packets at a public market in Taguig City, Aug. 27, 2008. — REUTERS/CHERYL RAVELO

THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said sugar seized from smugglers should be sold to the public via the Department of Agriculture’s (DA’s) Kadiwa stores.

In a statement on Tuesday, SRA Administrator David John Thaddeus P. Alba said the SRA will recommend to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., the sale of 80,000 bags of sugar seized at the Port of Batangas.

Last week, the Bureau of Customs seized about 4,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar valued at P240 million shipped from Thailand on the MV Sunward.

In December, the DA said it is expediting the import of 64,050 MT of refined sugar to address high sugar prices allegedly caused by tight supply.

The DA said it is convening the minimum access volume (MAV) advisory council to facilitate imports via the MAV mechanism.

In a virtual media briefing on Monday, Food security and livelihood advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan offered to help the government with its anti-smuggling efforts, blaming the ready availability of smuggled goods for depressing farm incomes.

Association of Fresh Fish Traders of the Philippines President Roderic C. Santos said food producers are the main victims of food smuggling and must be involved in the enforcement of anti-smuggling laws.

Asis G. Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, said that the DA is scheduled to file charges against smugglers within this week.

He added that while the group supports the creation of a DA inspectorate and enforcement group, he noted that the problem with the government’s anti-smuggling campaign is that “the group that goes after smuggling is ad hoc, without personnel.”

Mr. Perez said the continued smuggling of onions, rice, corn, sugar, fish, and pork continues to be a burden to farmers.

 “The persistent entry of these undocumented products is also threatening our economy in terms of revenue loss and untaxable commodities,” he said.

United Broiler Raisers Association President Elias Jose M. Inciong said the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997, especially its provisions on data and quarantine, must be enforced.

Meanwhile, Leonardo Q. Montemayor, chairman of the Federation of Free Farmers, said that the DA should distribute the P5,000 cash transfer to all rice farmers, not only for those farming two hectares or less.

“When prices of palay (unmilled rice) go down due to imports, it affects all farmers, not only those that farm two hectares of land or less. For the sake of those affected by imports, all should benefit from the P5,000 income transfer,” he said.

The government’s rice farmer financial assistance program grants preference to rice farmers tilling between 0.5 hectares and two hectares. — Ashley Erika O. Jose