Philippine agriculture

DA looks into alleged influx of smuggled cabbage from China

Frank Cimatu
DA looks into alleged influx of smuggled cabbage from China

LOCAL PRODUCE. Cordillera cabbages being prepared for transport. Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

Mau Victa/Rappler

The Department of Agriculture addresses concerns raised by a farmers' cooperative on the alleged sale of smuggled cabbage from China in parts of the country

Cordillera has vowed to swamp the country with its own cabbages to counter smuggled cabbages supposedly coming from China. 

At least 115 metric tons (MT) of cabbage from the region were traded and transported on Thursday, August 18, to various destinations nationwide, the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR) commodity destination report showed.

The daily report being prepared by the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) is done through random interviews of truckers in the major trading Centers in La Trinidad, Benguet by the AMAD Price Monitors.

This, after the Hi-Land Farmers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperative alleged in a Facebook post the sale of imported and smuggled cabbage from China in Metro Manila, particularly in Divisoria in Manila, at P70 a kilo – much lower than Benguet cabbages and those produced in other areas in Cordillera that are pegged at P115 to P125 a kilo.

The Hi-land Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative – which describes itself as a “cooperative of actual farmers from Benguet, Mountain Province, Tinoc, Ifugao, Baguio City, and Nueva Vizcaya – said some Manila buyers decreased their orders of cabbages from them.

The group revealed that the purchase, which normally totaled two tons, was reduced to 500 to 750 kilograms.

In response to reports on the influx of smuggled cabbages, DA-Cordillera said: “Upon verification with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) import section in Manila, no cabbage importation from China was allowed and was issued with Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) as of the moment.”

SPSIC is a document issued by BPI prior to importation to ensure that the products being imported meet standards to protect human, animal, or plant life or health. This ensures that the products are safe for consumers and as well as the prevention of the spread of pests or diseases among animals or plants.

“The concern was referred to the High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) and Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) at the Department Agriculture (DA) Central Office for further investigation,” DA-DAR added.

Agriculture officials said that they were monitoring the market in Baguio to check if indeed cabbages from China already made it here. 

“Result shows no presence of imported cabbages,” the monitoring report showed.

Instead, DA also increased its allotment of cabbages from the Benguet highlands to be sold in Manila. 

In its report, traded cabbages are set for transportation in the National Capital Region (NCR) particularly in the Divisoria and Balintawak markets; Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon; and through Tawid-Dagat including the Bicol region. Most of the cabbages are destined to Divisoria with 216 MT, followed by Central Luzon and Calabarzon with 202 MT and 152 MT, respectively.

Other major highland vegetables traded yesterday were potatoes, chayote, and carrots. Potato and chayote recorded the highest traded volume of at least 301 MT and 243 MT. This is attributed to their longer shelf life, making them most suitable for farther destinations.

Prices of vegetables also increased which can be attributed to the decreased volume of produce due to the damages caused by the continuous rains in the past weeks, the DA said.  

This week, the wholesale price per kilogram of cabbage particularly in the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) has increased. The Scorpio variety (first-class) ranges from P90 to P120; rareball (first-class) at P100 to P110, and wonderball (first-class) at P100 to P135. These prices are exclusive of additional costs for washing, trimming, sorting, packing, porter services, and packaging materials.

Relative to this, consumers in the country are encouraged to patronize Cordillera vegetables in recognition of the continuing efforts of the region’s farmers to produce fresh and safe food despite the challenges they face.

In August 2020, Benguet farmers were forced to sell their cabbage for as low as P3 per kilo because of a glut in supply caused by the pandemic lockdowns. – Rappler.com